DATE=3/28/2000 TYPE=BACKGROUNDER TITLE=NORTH KOREA DIPLOMACY NUMBER=5-46033 BYLINE=AMY BICKERS DATELINE=TOKYO CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Italy's Foreign Minister is to wrap up a two day visit to North Korea Wednesday, as the reclusive state continues it efforts to broaden its international contacts. As Amy Bickers reports from Tokyo, the government in Pyongyang has recently engaged several other nations in diplomatic discussions, as well. TEXT: Italian Foreign Minster Lamberto Dini's visit is seen as a landmark event for North Korea. During his the two-day visit to the Stalinist state, he is meeting with his counterpart in Pyongyang, as well as other top officials. The two countries forged diplomatic ties in January, making Italy the first of the Group of Seven nations to establish relations with North Korea's hermit government. Analysts say the newly-formed relationship is part of a recent flurry of diplomatic activity on the part of North Korea, intended to encourage outside aid to help improve conditions in the famine-stricken nation. They note the demise of the Soviet bloc has led to looser ties with its former cold war allies and the need to for Pyongyang to find other partners for trade and assistance. Analyst David O'Rear, of the Economist Intelligence Unit in Hong Kong, says the Italian Foreign Minister's visit also reflects the North's desire to improve its standing with European nations. /// O'REAR ACT /// It would seem there is a general effort to open up and improve diplomatic relations. Whether it has some broader implication is impossible to say, but it is a pattern that has developed in a short amount of time. /// END ACT /// North Korea has also reopened long-dormant diplomatic discussions with Japan and Australia. Next Tuesday, negotiators from Tokyo and Pyongyang will hold the first full-scale talks in more than seven years on normalizing relations. Diplomats say North Korea has discreetly hinted to Canada and Britain that it would be interested in holding talks. It has also signed a treaty of friendship with Russia. According to some diplomats, the thaw in North Korea's chilly international relations indicates that the country's leaders believe they have consolidated power in the years since the 1994 death of the dictator Kim Il Sung. Others credit Pyongyang's more friendly demeanor, in part, to upcoming elections in South Korea and the United States. They say the communist state does not want its weapons programs and frequent belligerent stance to become campaign issues. (SIGNED) NEB/AB/FC 29-Mar-2000 05:58 AM EDT (29-Mar-2000 1058 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .
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