Report: N Korean Official Meets Chea Sim

Slipping into Cambodia with little fanfare, North Korea’s vice minister of foreign affairs met with Senate President Chea Sim late last week, according to North Ko­rea’s state-run news agency.

During their meeting Friday, Chea Sim told Vice Minister Kim Yong Il that Cambodia supported his country and “expressed belief that the nuclear issue on the Ko­rean peninsula would be solved peacefully and fairly,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.

The vice minister’s visit was kept under wraps as government officials in Phnom Penh said last week they had no knowledge of the trip.

Reached by telephone on Thurs­­day, Khieu Thavika, under­sec­retary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and other officials from the ministry’s press office and the Interior Ministry said they were unaware of Kim’s presence here.

And while residents at the North Korean Embassy confirmed the vice minister was in town, they told a reporter who went to the embassy Thursday and Friday that embassy officials were not available for comment.

This week, Kim appeared to have slipped out of the country as quietly as he entered. Kim left Phnom Penh on Monday, after spen­ding five days in Cambodia, Hem Heng of the Foreign Minis­try’s press office said Tuesday.

In addition to meeting Chea Sim, Kim also met with Long Visalo, the secretary of state for the Foreign Ministry “to promote bi­lateral cooperation,” Hem Heng said, who added that although it was an “ordinary” visit, “personally, I have never seen a delegation [from North Korea] at that level.”

According to reports, some 460 North Korean defectors ar­rived in South Korea last week from an unidentified South­east Asian country, which some news agen­cies have reported is Viet­nam.

Asked whether Kim discussed the defections with Cambodian leaders, Hem Heng said he did not know. But, he added: “They should not talk about the defector issues be­cause Cambodia is not in­volved with that.”

Also on Tuesday, an official from the Cabinet of the Royal Pa­lace said King Norodom Siha­nouk had bestowed two awards upon North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

The King issued a royal decree on May 14, granting Kim Jong Il “La Grand Collier de l’independence nationale Royaume du Cam­­bodge”(The Grand Neck­lace of the National Indepen­dence of the Kingdom of Cam­bodia), and “La Grande Croix de l’ordre du Cambodge” (The Grand Cross of the Order of Cam­bodia), the official said. The of­ficial said he did not know why the awards were granted.

(Ad­ditional reporting by Nhem Chea Bunly)

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