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The BBC's Christen Thomson
"An historic moment, the first western leader to visit North Korea meets the country's president"
 real 56k

The BBC's Caroline Gluck reports from Pyongyang
"They will discussing a wide range of issues including... human rights, missile control technology, economic assistance"
 real 56k

Korean specialist Aiden Foster-Carter
"Meeting Kim Jong-il who was such a recluse, man-of-mystery... that has to be useful"
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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 00:35 GMT 01:35 UK
North Korea welcomes EU visit
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson arrives in Pyongyang, North Korea
Mr Persson received a colourful welcome
By Angus Roxburgh in Pyongyang

A senior European Union delegation has held a day of talks in Pyongyang, capital of the hardline Communist state of North Korea.

The Swedish Prime Minister, Goran Persson, accompanied by external relations commissioner Chris Patten and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, met the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il.

The talks are aimed at reviving the process of reconciliation between the secretive Communist North and the US-allied South of the divided peninsula.

Colourful reception

The EU delegation stepped off their plane in Pyongyang to the sound of a brass band and the sight of about 100 Korean women in brightly coloured dresses, all waving pink plastic flowers.

They have held ground-breaking talks with President Kim, and are due to meet again on Thursday.

The EU hopes to inject fresh life into the reconciliation process between North and South, which began last year with a visit to Pyongyang by the South Korean president.

Group photo of Patten, Persson and Kim
Kim Jong-Il is making tentative steps towards the West
Since then, Seoul's so-called "sunshine policy" has become somewhat clouded over, with the US President, George W Bush, decidedly chary about it.

Mr Patten was realistic about what the EU could achieve.

"We're not kidding ourselves that we can suddenly take centre-stage", he said, "but there has been a long pause in the attempt to build reconciliation between the North and the South, and we hope that, by being here, by encouraging things, we can provide a bit of momentum to that process of reconciliation."

The EU also wants to press Kim Jong-Il on North Korea's human rights record, on the continuing food crisis, which has seen more than a million die of starvation in the past six years, and on its military plans.

Mindful of President Bush's decision to press ahead with an anti-missile shield - partly because of the danger posed by states like North Korea - the EU delegation will be seeking assurances that Pyongyang really has given up its long-range missile programme.

About 37,000 US troops are still stationed in the South to counter any threats from the North, but Washington has still not finalised its policy towards Pyongyang.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea's dramatic turnaround
24 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Korean missile breakthrough
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