U.S.-N.K. exchanges flourishing

Korea Herald
Lee Joo-hee
9/11/2007

Informal exchanges between the United States and North Korea are thriving against the backdrop of maturing nuclear negotiations at the six-party talks, news reports said yesterday.

The exchanges vary from invitations to cultural and sports events, to a sightseeing tour in the United States by North Korean officials.

North Korea invited the New York Philharmonic Orchestra last month to play in Pyongyang. The renowned orchestra is yet to accept the offer, but the U.S. State Department has already said that it was up to them to make the decision, despite the embargo on travel and trade with the North.

Washington has also approved a tour around the capital city by the members and families of North Korean U.N. representatives this past weekend. The North Korean diplomats were usually restricted from traveling outside New York City.

A North Korean Taekwondo sports team is set to compete in exhibition matches in the United States next month.

The string of events is in stark contrast to just a year ago, when the North’s missile test in July chilled relations between the United States and North Korea.

Back then, bilateral contacts with the communist regime were still taboo under President George W. Bush’s policy.

With progress in the six-party talks, the cultural and informal exchanges appear to be flourishing hand-in-hand with increasing political exchanges, the reports said.

The latest progress on the nuclear front is the arrival of a U.S. delegation headed by Sung Kim, deputy chief of the U.S. negotiating team to the nuclear talks. He arrived in Seoul yesterday before starting a five-day trip to the North to discuss disabling the North’s nuclear facilities.

In the meantime, three North Korean boxers are to participate in the World Boxing Championships opening in Chicago next month — for the first time in over 10 years.

An information and human resources exchange program between Syracuse University of the United States and Kim Chaek University of Technology of North Korea also resumed recently. The program was halted following Pyongyang’s nuclear test last October. Upon the resumption, the United States reportedly approved a three-month visa for North Korean officials this month, compared to a 10-day visa in the past.

In February, the American Association for the Advancement of Science hosted an academic seminar with North Korean officials to discuss science and technology cooperation.

The United States and North Korea are currently discussing ways to normalize diplomatic relations in return for the North’s nuclear disablement as part of the denuclearization agreement reached at the six-party talks.

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