NORTH KOREA . . . A MEETING IN PYONGYANG

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Before formal talks over North Korea's nuclear program resume in Geneva Sept. 23, officials from North Korea and the U.S. will meet in Pyongyang Sept. 10 to discuss establishing diplomatic ties. Those negotiations -- apparently the first ever in North Korea's capital -- could be a major step toward the Communist government's recognition in the West. Still, State Department spokesman Mike McCurry was quick to say that opening liaison offices in Washington and Pyongyang would be "conditional on an overall agreement" on North Korea's nuclear program, and the White House soft-pedaled its announcement today. While the Pongyang meeting goes on, nuclear experts from both countries will also meet in Berlin.KIM JONG'S NOT ILL? Don't believe rumors that Kim Jong Il -- the seldom-seen heir apparent to the late Kim Il Sung as North Korean head of state -- is sick or out of political favor, his stepbrother advises. South Korean newspapers, whose own government amplified the rumors, quoted younger sibling Kim Pyong Il as saying his brother would assume power as soon as he finishes mourning their father's death.