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SLUG: 2-268757 Albright Korea (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: A week after becoming the highest level U-S official to visit North Korea, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says she is optimistic about future relations with a country isolated from the rest of the world and ostracized as a supporter of terrorism. Just days before Americans elect a new president, Correspondent Nick Simeone reports she is urging the next occupant of the White House not to abandon dialogue with the world's last cold-war holdout.

TEXT: Secretary Albright's ground-breaking trip to North Korea went so well that President Clinton could be just days away from making a trip of his own. That decision will likely depend on whether progress is made at talks between both countries underway on curbing North Korea's development and exports of missiles.

Upbeat during a speech about her trip to Pyongyang, the Secretary of State told reporters just where relations between both countries are heading is not yet known and probably would not be for a long time.


I think that we are embarked on a long road here. I have said that we are closer to the beginning of it than even the middle or the end.

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Pyongyang is not only moving toward diplomatic relations with Washington, but also with a number of European countries. This follows June's first-ever summit between the leaders of North and South Korea.


Today, in Korea, it is possible to envision a future in which the 38th parallel becomes just another line of latitude, in which North-South contacts increase while tensions decrease, and in which visits to and from Pyongyang no longer warrant the attention of the world.

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But many questions remain about the intentions of reclusive leader Kim Jong-Il. Korean-American Kongdan Oh, co-author of a new book on North Korea, is skeptical.

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Dealing with North Korea and the signing (of any agreement) and all these things takes first of all a long time and effort and perseverance and patience. I just wish Secretary Albright came back with a something much more substantial.

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It would be highly unusual for an American president to visit a country still technically at war with the United States, following the Korean conflict a half-century ago. Like many Korea experts, she believes Kim Jong-Il has much more to gain from such a visit than the United States.


They can bargain with Japan and South Korea from a position of strength.

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Regardless of whether Bill Clinton does make the trip, Secretary Albright is urging whoever next becomes president to continue contacts with North Korea, saying it would be irresponsible not to take every opportunity to improve relations. (SIGNED)


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