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North Korean PM Expected for Trade Talks

North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong Il will arrive in Cambodia to expand from "zero" the bilateral trade relations between the two Asian countries, a top official said Wednesday.

Kim Yong Il—no relation to the "supreme leader" of North Korea, King Jong Il—will meet with commerce and other high-ranking officials and is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding to promote trade and travel between the countries, Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh said.

North Korea "might see Cambodia as a stepping stone for producing goods for export to big countries' markets," he said. "North Korea's investment has been sanctioned…so they need investment, which must be produced in Cambodia and could allow them to export to those markets and can take some income to help their own country."

A US Embassy spokesman said the US supports the visit as an effort for North Korea "to develop normal diplomatic relationships" with other countries.

North Korea traditionally has strong ties to Cambodia, stemming from former king Norodom Sihanouk's warm relationship with former North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung, father of Kim Jong Il. The former king's bodyguards are all North Korean, and he has a palace in Pyongyang.

The former king forged his friendship with North Korea in the 1960s, when Asia countries were forming against Western imperialism, Prince Sisowath Thomico said Wednesday.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday the Kim Yong Il's visit was an encouraging sign for Cambodia's security situation. He denied concerns that the trip would harm Cambodia's international reputation.

"When the South Korean prime minister visited Cambodia, he asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to be a mediator...for both countries, and the prime minister did this job completely, so it's not a concern at all," he said.