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Russian Foreign Minister Arrives in North Korea - 2002-07-28

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov has arrived in North Korea to encourage better relations with Seoul.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is the first major foreign emissary to visit the two Koreas, following their deadly naval clash near their disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea, on June 29.

Mr. Ivanov arrived in Pyongyang Sunday for a two day visit, after spending three days in the South meeting with President Kim Dae-jung and other top officials.

Shortly before the Russian envoy arrived in Seoul Friday, Pyongyang ended a month of diatribes blaming South Korea for the Yellow Sea battle, and sent a note of regret to the leaders in Seoul. North Korea also suggested the two countries hold talks next month, and that it might entertain a visit by an envoy from the United States, the South's staunchest ally.

The Russian foreign minister has welcomed the change in North Korea's stance, and says he wants to encourage better inter-Korean relations.

Mr. Ivanov told reporters in Seoul that Russia was the appropriate country to help promote warming ties on the divided Korean Peninsula, because it has good relations with North Korea and support from all major political parties in the South. He said Moscow's role lies in creating a good environment for talks, rather than acting as mediator.

Mr. Ivanov gave a personal letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to President Kim Dae-jung in Seoul, praising his policy of engaging the North. Mr. Ivanov plans to deliver a letter from Mr. Putin to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, as well.

The Russian diplomat says he also has a message from South Korean President Kim Dae-jung for North Korean officials, but did not offer any details.

The two Koreas remain technically at war, because the Korean War ended in 1953 in an armed truce, with no peace treaty. The armistice was signed 49 years ago this past Saturday between North Korea, its communist ally, China, and the U.S.-led United Nations forces backing South Korea.