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Myanmar, North Korea to restore diplomatic ties

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YANGON, February 24 (Reuters) Myanmar and North Korea, two of the world's two most isolated nations, are set to restore diplomatic relations severed after a Pyongyang bomb attack killed several South Korean ministers in Yangon in 1983.

''We both are ready to go ahead now. At present, it's only a question of when, not a question of if,'' a Foreign Ministry official told Reuters today. He declined to give further details.

Military-ruled Myanmar cut ties with North Korea, then one of its closest allies, after a time bomb killed more than a dozen people, including several Seoul ministers, during a state visit by South Korean Presiden Chun Doo Hwan.

The attack was carried out by North Korean intelligence agents, some of whom were captured.

The two countries have had diplomatic contacts in recent years at expanded meetings of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), one of the few international groupings willing to include Myanmar.

''I'm not surprised. I don't see any reason why they shouldn't restore ties. At present, Myanmar is the only ASEAN country which has no diplomatic relations with North Korean,'' a Southeast Asian diplomat said.

''Even the ROK wouldn't disagree this because their policy toward the North is not to isolate them,'' he said, referring to South Korea by its official name, the Republic of Korea.

''But I don't think this news will be music to the ears of the US government -- their common arch-enemy.'' The United States is trying to bring North Korea back to six-party talks on ending Pyongyang's military nuclear ambitions and has imposed economic sanctions on the former Burma, which it says abuses human rights, charges Yangon denies.

REUTERS CH PC1605

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