N. Korea welcomes removal from State Dep’t terrorist list

SEOUL, South Korea, AP

North Korea said Saturday that its relations with Washington will improve following a move to take its name off a U.S. State Department list of terrorist countries. On Friday, the State Department made public a joint U.S.-North Korean communique in which North Korea said it opposes all forms of terrorism and believes that all U.N. member states must refrain from any association with such activity. In return, Washington expressed its willingness to remove North Korea from the list, which bars all but humanitarian aid to the hunger-stricken North and forbids other types of economic benefits. “This position will have a positive impact on terminating the confrontation between the (North) and the U.S. and building the bilateral relations in the 21st century,” said the North’s official foreign news outlet, KCNA, monitored in Seoul. Public renunciation of terrorism by North Korea has been Washington’s key precondition before taking the country off the State Department’s list. U.S. officials say there is a possibility that Pyongyang may be removed from the list during next week’s visit to Washington by Cho Myong Nok, the first vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission. Cho, described as the right-hand man to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, will meet President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen during his Oct. 9-12 visit. He is the highest ranking North Korean to visit Washington. The United States and North Korea have held a series of discussions on the terrorism issue, the latest of which was held this past week in New York. Pyongyang was put on the list because of involvement in the in-flight bombing of a South Korean airliner near Burma, now Myanmar, in 1987. All 115 people on board the Korean Air plane died.