The ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its two smaller non-Cabinet allies — the Social Democratic Party and New Party Sakigake — will select a joint delegation to visit North Korea, LDP Secretary General Koichi Kato said Oct. 3.The visit, the first of its kind in two and a half years, will be made in response to an invitation from Pyongyang. Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto expressed his consent to the visit to Kato earlier in the day, Kato said.The secretary generals of each party will meet early next week to decide how many and which members will make up the delegation, as well as the date of the visit, according to Kato. It is expected that Shigeru Ito, secretary general of the SDP, which has ties with the North Korean Workers’ Party, will head the delegation.The visit is likely to be made after Kim Jong Il formally assumes the post of party chief, Kato said. It is reported that Kim will succeed the post of party secretary general next Oct. 10.The ruling bloc planned to send a joint delegation to the communist country last summer, but the plans were abandoned due to complications between the two nations. Kato said the present visit has been made possible because there has been progress in bilateral negotiations relating to long-pending issues.Such issues include the expected homecoming of Japanese women who are married to North Koreans and living in North Korea. Tokyo and Pyongyang agreed Sept. 9 that the first group of wives will be allowed to visit Japan this month.

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