In the highest level talks since 1953, U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met North Korea’s Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun in Bangkok. The meeting took place during the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, which North Korea was attending for the first time. Secretary Albright said the meeting was a "symbolically historic step away from the sterility and hostility of the past." The 70-minute discussion – which lasted twice as long as had been scheduled –was "a useful and substantive exchange of views," according to one State Department official. Secretary Albright said she had addressed all issues of American concern, including North Korea’s missile program and had asked about Pyongyang's reported willingness to end this program in exchange for space launch services. The Secretary received no clarification on this point.
U.S. and North Korean officials made no concrete progress after three days of talks in Malaysia. U.S. officials are hopeful that the next round would take place before the end of the year. However, no date has been set. The near-term goal of the talks is to solidify plans for a visit to Washington by Kim Yong-sun, who would be the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit the U.S. Capitol.
The threatened test of North Korea’s long-range Taepo-Dong II missile has apparently been averted¾ for now. Talks between U.S. and North Korean officials have resulted in a loose pledge from the North not to take any actions that would disrupt improving relations as long as talks continue.