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N. Korea Seeks Euro Diplomatic Ties

September 21, 2000

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ North Korea has proposed to open diplomatic ties with several European countries, the communist state’s official news agency reported Thursday.

Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun recently sent letters carrying the proposal to his counterparts in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Britain and the external relations commissioner of the European Commission, according to KCNA, the North’s official foreign news outlet.

The report didn’t specify exactly when the letters were sent.

North Korea is pursuing contacts with the outside world in gestures apparently aimed at easing international concerns over the isolated, hard-line communist country and facilitating outside economic aid.

In January, Italy established diplomatic ties with North Korea, becoming the sixth European country to open relations with Pyongyang after Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Denmark and Austria. The North has also sealed such relations with Australia and the Philippines this year.

Diplomats from New Zealand began a four-day visit to North Korea on Tuesday to discuss establishing diplomatic relations.

On Thursday, KCNA said North Korea was ready to open relations with any country that respects independence and does not interfere in its internal affairs.

North Korea’s economy began declining after the collapse of the former Soviet bloc stripped Pyongyang of key ideological and trade partners and aid providers in the early 1990s.

Years of disastrous weather devastated its already inefficient collective farm system, forcing the North to depend on outside handouts to feed its 22 million people.

The North has also engaged in periodic talks with the United States and Japan to normalize relations.

The United States is prepared to improve ties with Pyongyang if North Korea ends its alleged support for terrorism. The two countries are to meet in New York next week.

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