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N. Korea 'warming' to U.S. talks

Megawati with South Korea's Kim during the press conference.  She met North leader Km Jong Il for the first time in 1965
Megawati with South Korea's Kim during the press conference. She met North leader Km Jong Il for the first time in 1965  

Staff and wires

SEOUL, South Korea -- A potential thaw in relations on the Korean Peninsula shows signs of spreading after Pyongyang reportedly responded "affirmatively" to the possible resumption of talks with the United States.

The word comes through Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who visited old friend, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il this week during a rare trip by a foreign leader to the communist state.

The North Korean leader has already agreed to reopen dialogue with Seoul and will host a special envoy from the South this week.

"I delivered a message from [South Korean] President Kim Dae-jung, to which leader Kim Jong Il responded affirmatively," President Megawati Sukarnoputri said at a joint news conference with the South Korean leader.

Although Megawati did not elaborate on her discussions with the North's Kim, officials in Seoul said the message she delivered was an appeal for Pyongyang to resume stalled dialogue with the United States, the Associated Press news agency reported.

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The Indonesian president arrived in Seoul on Saturday after a three-day visit to the North, and briefed officials in the South Korean capital about her discussions in the communist country.

The trip also comes a week before a South Korean presidential envoy heads to Pyongyang charged with the mission to re-establish inter-Korean dialogue.

Hopes for closer ties between the two countries have deteriorated since the landmark summit between the Korean leaders in 2000.

Dialogue is currently stalled amid tensions between the North and the United States. Almost 40,000 U.S. troops are based in South Korea -- a legacy to the 1950-53 Korean War.

Relations between the North and the U.S. plummeted to new lows this year after U.S. President George W. Bush called it part of an "axis of evil".

Nuclear hit list

Following those comments, it was revealed that the North was one of several countries on a Pentagon nuclear hit list.

The two Kim's met during an historic summit in June 2000
The two Kim's met during an historic summit in June 2000  

Furious over the details of the Pentagon nuclear review, North Korea has embarked on a serious of posturing exchanges with the United States and has dismissed offers of unconditional talks with Washington.

But Megawati's comments cast a ray of light through the gloomy North Korean-U.S. relations.

Megawati and Kim were childhood acquaintances, meeting during a summit anniversary in 1965 attended by their fathers Sukarno and Kim Il Sung.

Kim Jong Il took over as president following the death of his father in 1994 while Megawati gained Indonesian leadership last year.

Indonesia and North Korea ended friendly ties when Suharto ousted Sukarno in 1966 and outlawed communism.


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