North Korea, on rare trip, signs agreements with Vietnam

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HANOI, Oct 27 (Reuters) Vietnam and North Korea signed agriculture, sport, tourism and cultural agreements today on the first stop of a rare Southeast Asian tour by North Korea's Premier.

Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung formally welcomed Premier Kim Yong-il before senior officials of the two communist-run countries signed memorandums of understanding to share agriculture technology and promote cultural exchanges.

''We are convinced that our current visit will bear out good results,'' said a statement by the North Korean delegation, which includes several cabinet ministers.

Kim, who is in charge of economic policy, arrived in Hanoi on Friday and will visit a coal mine, a port, an agricultural institute and an industrial zone until Tuesday before going to Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos.

Economic and political analysts said impoverished North Korea is desperate for foreign currency and trade. They said the four-nation trip could lead to trade ties with the region.

''North Korea tried to reform (its economy) according to the Chinese economic reform. But the Chinese reform is not for all North Koreans,'' said Jeong Hyung-gon, a research fellow at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy in Seoul.

''North Koreans will learn economic reform lessons from all countries,'' he said.

United Nations sanctions imposed after a nuclear test in October 2006 severed the North's limited trade with the outside world.

The Premier is visiting Hanoi just 10 days after Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh received a red carpet reception in Pyongyang from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Vietnam, opening its economy and the newest World Trade Organisation member, says it has done almost no trade with North Korea since 1996.

In contrast, Vietnam's business ties with South Korea are booming. South Korea is the biggest investor in Vietnam and two-way trade is about 4 billion dollars.

REUTERS LPB RN1142

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