• Kyodo

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The United States and North Korea pledged Friday to cooperate with each other to combat international terrorism, removing a major obstacle in bilateral ties and paving the way for Washington to remove sanctions against Pyongyang.

In a joint statement released by the State Department, the two nations said they share the understanding following three rounds of talks this year on the issue.

“The two sides underscored their commitment to support the international legal regime combating international terrorism and to cooperate with each other in taking effective measures to fight against terrorism,” the statement said.

The agreement came three days prior to a landmark visit to Washington by North Korean special envoy Cho Myong Nok, the first vice chairman of North Korea’s National Defense Commission and the nation’s No. 3 leader.

Cho, who will travel to the U.S. as a special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, will meet President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Defense Secretary William Cohen in Washington.

According to the statement, the U.S. government indicated that it will remove North Korea from the list of states Washington claims back terrorism, if Pyongyang complies with U.S.-set requirements.

“As the DPRK (North Korea) satisfactorily addresses the requirements of U.S. law, the U.S. will work in cooperation with the DPRK with the aim of removing the DPRK from the list of state sponsors of terrorism,” the statement said.

The U.S. has named North Korea, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism.

Outlining the scope of antiterrorism measures committed to by the two nations, the statement said the list includes “not providing material support or resources, including safe haven, to terrorists and terrorist groups, bringing terrorists to justice, and fighting terrorist acts against the safety of civil aviation and maritime navigation.”

While the statement avoids giving specific examples of “safe haven,” U.S. officials have said Washington has demanded that North Korea expels a group of Japanese radicals who hijacked a Japanese airliner to North Korea in 1970 and have since been given refuge in there.

The U.S. has also demanded that North Korea gives a satisfactory account of Japanese allegations that a dozen or so Japanese nationals were abducted by North Korean agents to North Korea in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

North Korea has “affirmed that, as a matter of official policy and as its government has stated previously, it opposes all forms of terrorism against any country or individual,” the joint statement said.

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