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N. Korea To Discuss Thailand Kidnap

March 17, 1999

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) _ North Korean and Thai officials met Wednesday in an effort to ease relations strained after North Korean diplomats allegedly arranged the kidnapping of one of their colleagues on Thai soil.

The North Korean delegation was led by Li Do Sop, a Foreign Ministry official who served as ambassador to Thailand from 1991-1995.

``We are here on the behalf of the North Korean government to officially express regret to Thailand because we value highly our longtime bilateral relationship,″ Li told reporters.

Relations between the countries have grown tense since Hong Sun Gyong, a former commercial attache at the North Korean embassy in Bangkok, was seized last month along with his wife and son. Hong and his wife escaped; his son is still missing. Thai officials believe he is being held against his will by North Korean agents somewhere in Thailand.

Veerasak Phutrakul, director of the Thai foreign ministry’s East Asia Division, declined to discuss the talks but said police have already issued warrants for the arrest of four North Korean men _ not diplomatic officials _ believed to have been involved in the kidnapping.

Hong vanished several weeks ago after the North Korean embassy accused him of embezzling millions of dollars intended for the purchase of rice, which the communist nation desperately needs to ease the effects of famine.

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