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North Korean diplomat mourned as serious loss for country

In this image made from video, North Korea's foreign policy specialist Kang Sok Ju, lies in state during funeral services at the Sojang Club, Sunday, May 22, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kang died of cancer at the age of 76 on Friday, according to a news report released by the Korean Central News Agency early Saturday. (AP Photo/APTN)
May 21, 2016 - 11:52 PM

PYONGYANG, Korea, Democratic People's Republic Of - The North Korean diplomat who negotiated a 1994 deal to freeze the country's nuclear programs in exchange for aid was mourned at his state funeral Sunday as a serious loss for the country.

Senior military and ruling party officials attended the ceremony for Kang Sok Ju, a longtime foreign policy specialist for the North, at the Sojang Club in Pyongyang. Several officials bowed before the open casket, which was later driven to Patriotic Martyrs' Cemetery where he was buried.

State media reported died of esophageal cancer at age 76 on Friday.

"The demise of a sincere revolutionary and a capable political activist like Comrade Kang Sok Ju is a serious loss for our party and our people," said Workers' Party member Choe Ryong Hae, who headed his funeral committee. "It comes as the whole country is celebrating the historical 7th Party Congress, as a Congress of victors, and a glorious Congress. And it comes as the whole country is rushing towards a great new victory of our revolution."

Kang was Pyongyang's chief negotiator when it reached the landmark agreement with Washington in 1994 to freeze and eventually dismantle its nuclear facilities in exchange for international aid to build two electricity-producing nuclear reactors.

The deal fell apart in 2002 after revelations that the North had operated a secret nuclear weapons program in violation of the agreement, which was disclosed shortly after a meeting between Kang and then-U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.

From 1984, Kang served as Vice Foreign Minister and then First Vice Foreign Minister. In 2010 he was promoted to Vice Premier and from 2014 he was also the Director of the International Affairs Department of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea. He was a member of the party's politburo from 2010 until early May 2016.

News from © The Associated Press, 2016
The Associated Press

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