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North Korean PM Signs Trade, Shipping Pacts in Phnom Penh

North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong Il arrived in Cambodia as scheduled Thursday, immediately signing two bilateral agreements to strengthen economic and shipping ties between the two.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith told reporters after Kim's meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen that the North Korean prime minister had brought up three important points to improve relations between the two nations.

The first was to increase the exchange of delegations at all levels, Khieu Kanharith said. "Secondly, North Korea wants to increase trade relations. As you can see, today we signed two agreements, on investment and sea transportation."

North Korea also sought Cambodia's political support, he said, especially in the UN.

In a statement distributed to reporters at the Phnom Penh International Airport Thursday morning, North Korea said the four-day visit was an important occasion to increase understanding and friendship between the two.

Kim Yong Il is the highest-ranking North Korean official to visit Cambodia in six years. He is no relation to the "supreme leader" of the socialist nation, Kim Jong Il.

Regarding six-party talks over North Korea's nuclear weapons, Khieu Kanharith said the view from North Korea was that "the tensions are because of the United States."

Kim "said that the tension is the result, primarily, of the US adopting a position of being the enemy of North Korea," he said. "So when the US changes its position, the tension will be eased, and the situation will be better. [Cambodia] will welcome the change of position and we welcome all countries taking part in the six-party negotiations.''

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said the Cambodian government should take this opportunity to remind its impoverished ally to seek democratic reform.

"We should push North Korea to respect human rights, to start the democratic process," Sam Rainsy said. "We should condemn North Korea, because there are serious human rights violations in North Korea, and the people are getting poorer and poorer."