Vietnam leader to visit Seoul after Pyongyang trip

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HANOI, Nov 8 (Reuters) Vietnam's ruling Communist Party leader will visit South Korea next week, a month after a rare trip to North Korea as Hanoi boosts ties on both sides of the divided Korean peninsula.

State-run Vietnam News Agency and Yonhap news agency in Seoul said Communist Party Secretary-General Nong Duc Manh, Vietnam's most senior politician, goes to Seoul November 14-16.

''Notably, Manh will explain the outcome of his visit to North Korea in October,'' Yonhap quoted South Korean spokesman Cheon Ho-seon as saying.

Vietnam has diplomatic relations with both Koreas and Manh, a former forestry engineer who has been Party chief since 2001, received a red-carpet welcome from North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on October 16.

South Korea is the biggest investor in Vietnam's fast-expanding economy, but Hanoi and Pyongyang have done almost no trade since 1996.

Manh will meet South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in a visit that also marks the 15th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Seoul and Hanoi.

Political and economic analysts say Vietnam, its economy growing at more than 8 per cent a year under market reforms and its expanding international relations, could provide a model for isolationist North Korea.

Vietnam, which was elected to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council last month, has said it was willing to play an active role in Korean peace efforts.

In signs of some change from Pyongyang in recent months, it agreed to disable its nuclear capability and leader Kim Jong-il hosted a summit with South Korean President Roh. The leaders agreed to try to bring a formal peace to the divided Korean Peninsula, the Cold War's last frontier.

Also, North Korean Premier Kim Yong-il visited four Southeast Asian countries -- Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos -- in late October and early November, a rare trip to explore economic relations.

REUTERS GT ND0910

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