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The BBC's Jonny Dymond in Washington
"A visit heavy with history"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
North Korean official meets Clinton
Marshall Jo and Bill Clinton
Marshall Jo and Clinton meet - but no handshake
The most senior North Korean official to visit the United States, Vice-Marshall Jo Myong-rok, has been holding talks with President Clinton in Washington.

This meeting is an important way to continue to engage

White House spokesman Jake Siewert
Marshall Jo, who is widely considered to be the number two to North Korea's reclusive leader, Kim Jong-il, said he hoped to have frank discussions which would advance relations between the two countries.

The meeting at the White House comes five days after the two countries signed an agreement on security co-operation.

North Korea is hoping Washington will remove it from a list of countries which the US believes sponsor terrorism.

Frank discussions

For Mr Clinton's part he will have been keen to find out more about North Korea's weapons programme.

North Korean military parade
North Korea's military intentions have sparked widespread alarm
"Continued engagement on this has demonstrably helped reduce tension on the peninsula and we think this meeting is an important way to continue to engage," White House spokesman Jake Siewert told reporters.

Earlier Marshall Jo, the deputy to President Kim Jong Il, said he and Mr Clinton would be trying to improve bilateral relations.

"During our visit we will do our best to have frank discussions with the American leadership so as to remove deeply rooted and age-old distrust," he said in written statement issued on Monday night.

Frosty relations

The meeting comes even though there have not been diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang since the Korean War began more than 50 years ago.

Earlier on Tuesday North Korea put on a massive show of state and military power to mark the 55th anniversary of the ruling communist party.

Up to one million people were reported to have packed the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, to take part in the celebrations in the world's most closed society.

However, aid agencies say that, as North Korea's Stalinist leader, President Kim Jong-il, celebrates, his people are starving - malnutrition is now the country's biggest killer.

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See also:

06 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea and US move closer
30 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree to search for relatives
28 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Koreas agree 500,000 ton food loan
12 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
North Korea: A military threat?
09 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Profile: Kim Jong-il
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