WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Associated Press said on Sunday it has formally opened a news bureau in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, becoming the first major Western news organisation to operate a fully-staffed bureau in the communist country.

AP President and CEO Tom Curley said the opening followed months of 'fruitful discussions' with the Korea Central News Agency, which is run by the country's government Mr Curley called the event 'a remarkable milestone and reminds us of the enormous value of being seen as the world's definitive source for news.'

Kim Pyong Ho, president of KCNA, expressed the confidence that the AP's Pyongyang bureau 'will contribute to the improvement of relations between our two countries and to our understanding of one another.'

AP Korea Bureau Chief Jean Lee and Chief Asia Photographer David Guttenfelder will oversee staff in the Pyongyang bureau, the news agency said.