JO MYONG ROK
Top N. Korean
Jo Myong Rok, 82, a top North Korean military official and longtime confidant of leader Kim Jong Il who traveled to Washington in 2000 on a then-unprecedented mission, died Saturdayof heart disease, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Jo was vice marshal of the Korean People's Army and held the No. 2 post on the powerful National Defense Commission behind Kim.
He visited Washington in October 2000 as Kim's special envoy, meeting with then- President Clinton. He also pledged to then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that North Korea would take steps to fundamentally improve relations in the interests of peace and security.
Jo was the highest-level North Korean official to visit Washington, and his trip — followed by Albright's landmark visit to Pyongyang — was part of North Korea's efforts to keep up the momentum generated by a breakthrough summit between Kim and late South Korean President Kim Dae-jung earlier that year.
Jo was born into a peasant family in North Hamgyong province, the news agency said. He served as a pilot during the Korean War, which North Korea refers to as the "Fatherland Liberation War," and later rose to chief of staff and commander of the air force of the Korean People's Army.
Times staff and wire reportsCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun