- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

The highest-ranking North Korean official ever to visit the United States is expected in Washington on Monday for talks with President Clinton and other officials in an effort to ease hostilities on the divided peninsula.
The visit by Cho Myong-nok, first vice chairman of North Korea's National Defense Commission, will proceed despite an unmet demand by North Korea that it be dropped from the U.S. list of nations that sponsor terrorism.
Despite the innocuous sounding title, Mr. Cho is widely considered the second-most-powerful man in North Korea, with responsibilities for military policy and answering only to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
It is not clear if the North Koreans have dropped their demand to be removed from the terrorism list or if enough progress has been made in talks with the United States that they feel removal is imminent or no longer necessary.
North Korean officials at the United Nations in New York were not available for comment yesterday.
The visit comes at a time of growing rapprochement between longtime foes, North and South Korea, that began with a summit between Mr. Kim and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung earlier this year.
The United States maintains 37,000 troops in South Korea to help police an armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War nearly five decades ago.
Mr. Cho is slated to arrive Monday and leave Thursday. While in Washington, he will meet Mr. Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and other U.S. officials. The Clinton administration had sought a high-level North Korean visit to Washington, but in February North Korea made its removal from the U.S. terrorist list a precondition for such a visit.
Yesterday, administration officials said that North Korea remains on the list.
"Pyongyang knows what is necessary to be removed from the terrorist list. No dramatic deal or high-level visit is necessary for that to happen. They are still on the list," said a State Department official on the condition of anonymity.
Since Wednesday, Charles Kartman, special U.S. envoy for North Korea; Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation; and Michael Sheehan, the State Department's coordinator on counterterrorism, have been meeting in New York with North Korean officials to prepare for the visit.
"We've made a lot of progress on a number of things," said Mr. Kartman Monday night at the conclusion of the talks. "We're going to have this visit. We're done talking here in New York."
Mr. Kartman said that details of the visit would be announced later, possibly this week.
Terrorism and missile proliferation were the main topics of discussions in New York. Washington is especially concerned by North Korea's ability, demonstrated in a 1998 test, to launch multiple-stage rockets capable of hitting the United States.
The threat of North Korea is frequently cited by proponents of a U.S. national missile defense.
On Saturday, in Reykjavik, Iceland, Mrs. Albright said she would visit North Korea before leaving office in January "if circumstances allow."
There is speculation that she will travel to Vietnam with Mr. Clinton after the presidential election and visit North Korea before returning to the United States.
A visit by Mrs. Albright to Pyongyang would be the first by such a high-ranking Cabinet member since North Korea was established, though lower-level officials have visited in the past.
Capitol Hill Republicans, who have been critical of aspects of the U.S.-North Korean rapprochement, said they expected North Korea to be removed from the terrorist list momentarily.
"They are working feverishly in New York planning the visit trying to figure out what is deliverable," said a Republican foreign policy staff member. "I expect [removal of North Korea from the list] is deliverable."
He said that North Korea has not been involved in terrorism in years.
North Korea earned its spot on the list of states that sponsor terrorism after blowing up a South Korean airliner in 1987, killing 115.
It was also responsible for the 1983 bombing of the South Korean Cabinet leaders in Rangoon, Burma a botched attempt to assassinate then-President Chun Doo-hwan.
North Korea is also believed to have kidnapped people from Japan and South Korea.
It was announced yesterday that U.S. negotiators will meet colleagues from South Korea and Japan Saturday, ahead of Mr. Cho's visit to Washington.
Washington has repeatedly stressed its tight cooperation with Tokyo and Seoul, in a framework known as the Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group.
U.S. negotiators will be led by the State Department's coordinator of North Korea policy, Wendy Sherman, spokesman Philip Reeker said in a statement.
Japan will be represented by Yukio Takeuchi, deputy vice minister for foreign policy, while South Korea will send Deputy Foreign Minister Jang Jai-ryong, the statement said.
In February, the United States presented North Korea with four conditions for removal from the list:
Issue a written guarantee that it no longer engages in terrorism.
Provide evidence that it has not engaged in terrorism in the last six months.
Join international terrorism agreements.
Address its past support of terrorism, specifically regarding still missing Japanese and South Korean nationals.
"We've made progress, but do not expect an announcement from the White House that North Korea has been removed from the terrorism list," said a Clinton administration official.

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