North Korean foreign minister meets with Vietnamese officials
North Korean Foreign Minister Park Ui Chun met with his Vietnamese counterpart in Hanoi Saturday, with outside countries hoping Vietnam would voice issues of international concern in its talks with the reclusive, nuclear-armed communist nation, dpa reported.
During an effusive exchange of greetings with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Park complimented Vietnam on its "cleanliness."
"In particular, the government and society here today are very stable," Park said, seemingly emphasizing those elements which North Korea finds most attractive in its fellow communist country.
After the first five minutes, the talks between Park and Khiem were closed to journalists.
Park's visit to Hanoi comes on the heels of Friday's visit by Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura. Both ministers are returning from an ASEAN security summit in Singapore this week, which witnessed the latest round of the six-party talks on shutting down North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes.
Japan and the United States have expressed the hope that Vietnam would use its historical ties to North Korea to push the reclusive Communist country to move forward in the denuclearization talks.
The United States is chiefly concerned with obtaining a fuller accounting of North Korea's programmes to produce enriched uranium, which could be used to build nuclear bombs. Japan has demanded that North Korea fully account for the Japanese citizens it secretly abducted in the 1970s and 80s.
Meeting with Khiem on Friday, Komura said Japan would be "very grateful" if Vietnam would stress to Pak the necessity of accounting for all of the abductees.
Komura and Khiem also reiterated their and ASEAN's support for the goal of a verifiable denuclearization of the Korea peninsula.
Before meeting with Khiem, Park met Saturday with Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, who with Prime Minister Nguyen Van Dung and President Nguyen Minh Triet is one of the country's top three leaders. It is not yet known whether Khiem or Manh raised the issues of denuclearization or of Japanese abductees with Park.
Vietnam's friendly relations with North Korea date from the 1950s through the 80s, when both were strict communist allies of the Soviet Union.
Their ties have dwindled in recent decades as Hanoi has reformed its economy and society and South Korea as has become the second- largest investor in Vietnam.
But officials from Pyongyang periodically come to Vietnam and in October North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong Il visited Hanoi and signed several trade and cooperation agreements.