BEIJING - The Associated Press will soon open a news bureau in Pyongyang in a significant step that will enable the Western media to learn more about the country.
The decision was made in an agreement signed by the AP and Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) in New York when KCNA executives visited the United States this week.
According to a press release posted on the AP's website, the bureau will be the first permanent text and photo bureau operated by a Western news organization in the capital of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Five years ago, AP Television News, which has its headquarters in London, became the first Western news organization to establish an office in the DPRK.
The AP and KCNA have been working on the agreement for some time. In March, Tom Curley, AP chief executive officer, Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor, and John Daniszewski, AP senior managing editor for international news, traveled to Pyongyang to discuss the deal.
The two sides also worked together on journalistic issues and issues concerning photo and video technology. As part of that, the two agencies are to hold a photo exhibition in New York next year.
Curley said the agreement is historic and significant.
"AP is once again being trusted to open a door to better understanding between a nation and the world," he said. "We are grateful for this opportunity and look forward to providing coverage for AP's global audience in our usually reliable and insightful way."
Kim Pyong-ho, president of KCNA, said he hoped "the agreement will contribute not only to strengthening relations between our two news agencies but also to a better understanding between the peoples of our two countries and the improvement of DPRK-US relations".
Analysts say Pyongyang's decision to allow the AP bureau to be opened won't necessarily lead it to adopt an open-door policy to the rest of the world.
"This is part of its diplomatic strategy toward the United States," said Zhang Liangui, a professor at the Research Institute for International Strategic Studies, which is affiliated to the Party School of the Central Committee of CPC.
He said the bureau opening once again shows the DPRK's willingness to improve its relations with Washington, which recently extended a year-long sanction against the country.
He said the DPRK has tried hard to open a direct communication channel with the US in an attempt at forcing it to recognize itself as a nuclear weapon state.
The only foreign media organizations that now have staff permanently employed in Pyongyang bureaus are China's Xinhua News Agency and People's Daily, and Russia's ITAR-TASS.
(China Daily 07/02/2011 page7)