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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 
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)
29-Mar-2000 05:58 AM EDT (29-Mar-2000 1058 UTC)
Source: Voice of America

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