North Korea’s foreign minister began a three-day visit to Vietnam to boost ties between the two communist countries, but will not discuss an expected visit by leader Kim Jong-il, an official said yesterday.
Pak Ui-chun arrived in Hanoi on Friday night after attending a Southeast Asian security forum in Singapore.
Pak will discuss bilateral ties with Vietnamese officials, but won’t discuss the timing of Kim’s visit, said Ma Chol-su, ambassador to Hanoi.
In October, Kim accepted an invitation to visit Hanoi from Vietnam’s Communist Party chief, Nong Duc Manh, who traveled to North Korea.
Pak was scheduled to meet later yesterday with Manh and also with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Gia Khiem.
Vietnam has maintained friendly relations with isolated North Korea, an ally during the Cold War, and has in the past provided rice to Pyongyang. North Korea’s command economy has resulted in severe food shortages in the past, and they could worsen this year because of flooding and soaring global food prices.
It was not immediately known whether Pak would appeal to the Vietnamese government for food assistance during his visit. Vietnam is the world’s second-largest rice exporter after Thailand.