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Albright, North Korea's Kim Jong Il hold second meeting

PYONGYANG, North Korea -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il held a second meeting on Tuesday as they continued to build on historic talks aimed at easing Cold War tensions.

The pair spent hours together on Monday and appeared to get on well, exchanging smiles and warm handshakes. However, Kim said, "I don't think the three hours of discussion we had were enough to break the silence of 50 years."

After Monday's meeting, Kim's first ever with a U.S. administration official, the two attended a massive parade featuring 100,000 performers, followed by dinner and an agreement to meet again.

North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper gave the visit top billing, with two large front-page photographs. One showed Albright sitting across a table from Kim, with their aides alongside; the other was of a smiling Kim and the 16-member U.S. delegation standing in front of a stormy seascape mural.

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Monday's conversations were "substantial, we found them very useful," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters after the talks.

Albright told the dinner guests: "We must each meet our responsibilities to eliminate threats, reduce tension, build confidence and expand ties. ... We must each do our part if the Cold War is truly to end, and gone with it the division that has caused such suffering to the people of Korea."

She said the path could be difficult. "We must be pragmatic and recognize that the road to fully normal relations remains uphill."

Asked why Albright and Kim were meeting again, Boucher said: "They have more to talk about." The U.S. delegation had initially only expected a brief session with Kim.

Missile program, food shortage are top issues

"They discussed the issues that are of concern to us," Boucher said when asked if Pyongyang's missile program had been brought up.

After her two-day trip, Albright will recommend for or against a visit by President Bill Clinton, a senior U.S. official said.

Boucher said Albright, the first U.S. Cabinet member to visit a country with which the United States remains technically at war, gave Kim Jong Il a letter from Clinton.

"She gave him a letter from President Clinton dealing with the president's expectations of how to further develop relations between the United States and North Korea."

The United States hopes it can ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, where U.S. and South Korean troops fought North Korea and Chinese forces in the 1950-53 Korean War. The war ended in a ceasefire, rather than a treaty.

U.S. officials believe that after years of food shortages and economic decline, North Korea views cooperation with the outside world as the best way to bring prosperity without giving up power like the communists of Eastern Europe.

In an interview with CNN, Patrick Cronin of the U.S. Institute of Peace said the challenge for the United States is to link its security concerns with North Korea's desire for aid.

Albright spent Tuesday morning making courtesy calls on Foreign Minister Paek Nam Son and nominal head of state Kim Young Nam.

It was expected her next meeting with Kim would be after a lunch hosted by Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and the highest ranking North Korean ever to go to Washington.

Albright came to Pyongyang particularly interested in learning more about Kim's offer to abandon North Korea's long-range missile program in exchange for foreign help with missile launches.

The idea, put to Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this year, has gained ground after some initial skepticism.

The talks between Kim and Albright mark another step in reclusive North Korea's efforts to enter the world stage. Within the past year, Kim has also met the presidents of China, Russia and rival South Korea.

Reuters contributed to this report.

ASIANOW


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RELATED SITES:
U.S. State Department
Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
Korean Information Service
South Korean government
North Korea: Politics and Government
North Korea
UniKorea
European Union


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