TITLE=U-S/NORTH KOREAN VISIT
CONTENT= ///REISSUING WITH CHANGE IN INTRO NOTING THAT ARRIVING OFFICIAL IS THIRD --NOT SECOND--MOST SENION OFFICIAL IN N. KOREA'S GOVT. TEXT OF PIECE REMAINS UNCHANGED.//
/// EDITORS: THIS PIECE CAN BE USED THROUGH THE WEEKEND UP UNTIL NORTH KOREAN ARRIVAL MONDAY IN SAN FRANCISCO ///
INTRO: The man considered the third most senior official in the North Korean government arrives in the United States Sunday. Vice Chairman of Pyongyang's National Defense Commission, Cho Myong Rok, is considered a personal envoy of President Kim Jong Il and will be the most senior official from the North to ever visit the United States and meet with President Clinton. Correspondent Nick Simeone reports U-S officials consider it a potential turning point in relations -- four decades after the Korean War.
TEXT: U-S officials say they have no doubt Cho Myong Rok's visit is a direct indication from elusive North Korean leader Kim Jong Il that Pyongyang wants to improve relations with the United States and not simply an overture to gain a new infusion of food aid or other assistance.
Wendy Sherman, President Clinton's special advisor on North Korea says Pyongyang dropped all preconditions for this visit, including its longstanding demand that the country first be removed from the U-S government's list of terrorist-sponsoring nations.
/// SHERMAN ACT ///
We think that it is very significant. We expect that he is coming here with the full authority that is behind Chairman Kim Jong Il's decision to send him and as they have said in their own words they are having him come here to work to improve relations.
/// END ACT ///
The visit is unusual because the United States and North Korea do not have diplomatic relations. They never signed a peace agreement at the end of the Korean Conflict during the 1950's and are technically still in a state of war. But ties have been improving ever since Washington eased economic sanctions last year in exchange for a promise from the North not to conduct more long-range missile tests.
The Clinton Administration expects Cho Myong Rok's upcoming visit to cover issues of concern to both countries, from the North's missile and nuclear program and terrorism to the historic summit between the North and South last June.
But it's far from certain whether this high level visit will produce concrete results. Gordon Flake is executive director of the Mansfield Center for Pacific Affairs.
/// FLAKE ACT ///
All of those would require some concessions on the United States side as well and politically right now, we're not capable of doing that. I mean, if you're Al Gore the last thing you want right now is a month before the election, the question of taking away North Korea's terrorist status when it hasn't met all the criteria . . . . for taking that away. The missile tests as well: In order for us to get rid of North Korea's missile program, they are going to have to be bought off. I think everyone's in complete agreement on that.
/// END ACT ///
Cho Myong Rok is believed to have spent little time outside the communist North. He's now set to see President Clinton at the White House next Tuesday. (SIGNED)