US denies North Korea diplomatic ties report

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Seoul, Nov 26: A US embassy spokesman today denied a report by South Korea's biggest daily that the State Department has stationed an employee in Pyongyang to lay the groundwork for opening a permanent liaison office in North Korea.

The State Department has an employee in Pyongyang but only to manage equipment for a team that is overseeing the disablement of North Korea's nuclear facilities. The employee will be in the North through the disablement process.

''This is not for normalisation,'' spokesman Max Kwak said.

There has been a rise in exchanges between the two countries after reclusive North Korea agreed this year to a multinational deal to freeze and then roll back its nuclear arms programme in return for massive aid and better international standing.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper quoted an unnamed source in Washington as saying: ''A US State Department diplomat who handles administrative affairs has checked into a room in Koryo Hotel and has been using it as an office and accommodation.'' The State Department employee has been acting as an administrative liaison between the United States and North Korea, the source said.

The Koryo is one of the few hotels in Pyongyang open to foreign guests.

The United States has said if North Korea completely ends its nuclear weapons programme, Washington is willing to establish diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.


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