For the first time since the Korean War, the U.S. government has said it will issue visas permitting a group of private North Koreans to visit the United States, according to diplomats in Peking.
An invitation has been extended to North Korea to send three professors to a meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Assn. for Asian Studies, to be held in October at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Although the invitation was formally sent by the academic group and not by the U.S. government, American officials acknowledged that they have decided to let the North Koreans in.
‘A Little Step’
“We are disposed to consider the visa applications, yes,” one U.S. official said here. “It’s sort of a little step, you could say, to encourage the dialogue (between North Korea and South Korea).”
The U.S. government made no public announcement of the new overture to the North Koreans. But it quietly informed some diplomats of other Asian nations about it, telling them that this represents no significant change in American policy toward North Korea.
Since the Korean War, the only North Korean officials permitted to visit the United States have been those attending meetings of international organizations.
North Korean diplomats have been permitted to attend sessions of the United Nations, where both North Korea and South Korea have observer status. In addition, North Korean sports officials were permitted to attend sports federation meetings before the Olympic Games in Los Angeles last year.
A U.S. official, who declined to be identified by name, said the request for three scholars to attend the meeting in Washington was sent through the North Koreans’ observer mission at the United Nations. “A reply indicating interest was received through them,” the official said.