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North Korean diplomat dies aged 82

Jo Myong Rok, a long-time confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il who travelled to Washington in 2000 on an unprecedented goodwill mission, has died.

He was 82.

The North's state media reported that Mr Jo died of a heart disease on Saturday.

Mr Jo served as first vice chairman of the North's powerful National Defence Commission before his death.

Mr Jo visited Washington in 2000 as Mr Kim's special envoy and met with then US President Bill Clinton.

He also later pledged to then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that North Korea would take steps to fundamentally improve relations in the interests of peace and security.

The reconciliation mood has since slowed because of tension over the North's nuclear weapons programme.

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