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(LEAD) U.S. scientists visiting Pyongyang for talks on academic cooperation

All Headlines 20:22 December 10, 2009

(ATTN: UPDATES through 5th para with KCNA report of arrival)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- A group of prominent American scientists traveled to Pyongyang on Thursday for discussions with North Korean officials and scientists on ways to foster bilateral cooperation in various fields of research.

During its five-day stay, the six-member delegation led by Peter C. Agre, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, aims to "discuss and identify future opportunities for collaborative research activities in fields of mutual interest," according to the American Association for Advancement of Science (AAAS). Agre, director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, serves as president of the AAAS.

The U.S. team "arrived here by air," the North's Korean Central News Agency said in a one-sentence dispatch.

The U.S. association stressed that its delegation's visit is the first significant attempt to engage North Korea in a comprehensive effort focused on scientific cooperation. AAAS officials said the trip is purely aimed at promoting academic cooperation, and is irrelevant to the political situation involving the resumption of bilateral dialogue between North Korea and the U.S.

A high-level U.S. envoy on North Korea, Stephen Bosworth, also returned to Seoul after what he described as "extensive and useful" talks with Pyongyang officials on a three-day visit.

"We will be meeting with scientists, university and science policy officials to explore practical opportunities for exchange and collaboration," Agre said in an e-mailed statement.

He plans to give a lecture for North Korean officials and students at the Kim Chaek University of Technology in Pyongyang.

The university has maintained scientific collaboration with Syracuse University in New York.

The U.S.-North Korea Scientific Engagement Consortium, composed of Syracuse University, the AAAS and the Korea Society, has been pushing to expand the scientific exchange. The trip marks the first time that a group of well-known U.S. scientists will travel to North Korea since dozens of scientists visited the Kim Chaek University of Technology in 2002 and 2004.

Cathleen A. Campbell, another member of the delegation, expressed hope that their activities will help inspire North Korean and U.S. policymakers to seek more exchanges on science.

"We are hopeful that these meetings will show decision-makers and interested parties in the U.S. and the DPRK (North Korea) that progress in science engagement can be made by leveraging the diverse resources and capabilities of several unique and complementary institutions," said Campbell, president and chief executive officer at the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF). "We hope that our efforts will identify and support future collaborations."

The delegation members also include Stuart Thorson, professor at Syracuse University, Maxmillian Angerholzer, executive director at the Richard Lounsberry Foundation, Linda Staheli, senior associate at CRDF, and Vaughan Turekian, director of the Center for Science Diplomacy at AAAS.


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