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Tuesday, 18 July, 2000, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
N Korea and Japan to break ice
Soldier with binoculars
North Korea is slowly moving out of decades of isolation
By Hung-Sung Khang in Seoul

The Japanese and North Korean foreign ministers are to hold an unprecedented summit in Bangkok later this month.

They will be the highest level talks ever between the two countries.

The discussions take place as North Korea shows increasing signs of emerging from its reclusive state.

North  Korean missiles
Japan is anxious about Pyongyang's missile programme
The meeting on 26 July will be held on the eve of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional forum, due to take place in the Thai capital.

Japan Foreign Minister Yohei Kono and his North Korean counterpart, Paek Nam-Sun, are set to discuss re-establishing diplomat relations.

But before this can happen, Japan is likely to raise the issue of Pyongyang's missile programme.

Colonial rule

North Korea shook the region after firing a ballistic missile over Japanese territory two years ago.

Tokyo also wants to know about the plight of Japanese nationals who were allegedly kidnapped by North Korean agents.

Japanese Foreign Minister
Mr Kono is to discuss forging diplomatic ties
Pyongyang for its part has demanded compensation and an apology for Japan's harsh colonial rule of the Korean peninsula, which ended just over 50 years ago.

The meeting of the foreign ministers is the latest step in a series of moves which have seen North Korea opening up to the international community.

Last month the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, and South Korean President Kim Dae Jung met for the first time at a summit aimed at easing hostilities on the peninsula.

The Cold War rivals have been locked in a tense truce since the end of the Korean war.

In recent months Pyongyang has re-established diplomatic ties with a number of countries.

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Stalemate ends N Korea missile talks
17 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
N Korea puts Japan talks on ice
09 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea: A political history
12 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea: A military threat?
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