VK Singh to visit North Korea for peace talks

Sergio Conner
May 17, 2018

While there was no meeting between V K Singh and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, he held discussions with four leaders in the North Korean establishment: Vice President of Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, Kim Yong Dae, Foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, Culture minister Pak Chun Nam, and Vice Foreign minister Choe Hui Chol.

Singh's reiteration of India's stand favouring the peace initiative came hours after Pyongyang cancelled a high-level meeting with Seoul - scheduled for Wednesday - in protest against a joint military drill by the United States and South Korea, calling it a provocation and a preparation for an invasion. From left, Mitoji Yabunaka, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau; James Kelly, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs; Wang Yi, Chinese vice foreign minister; Kim Yong-il, North Korean vice foreign minister; Alexander Losyukov, Russian deputy foreign minister; and Lee Soo Hyuck, South Korean deputy foreign minister.

The move was actually precipitated by India's concern over Pakistan's supposed access to North Korea's missile technology, strategically phrased as "proliferation linkages in India's neighbourhood".

Senior North Korean officials are in China this week to learn about economic development and further restore relations between the two countries.

The Indian outreach to North Korea comes at a time when old certainties are being challenged everywhere in the world, leading to multiple engagements by all relevant powers.

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Singh is the first Indian minister to visit North Korea in almost two decades. We hope that such engagement will help in reducing tension and pave the way for lasting peace and reconciliation in the Korean Peninsula.

In his meeting with Xi last week, Kim registered his desire for Chinese support in the talks, particularly his call for a "phased and synchronous" approach to denuclearisation, as opposed to the US' demand for an immediate end to its nuclear programme, reported Associated Press.

India has always maintained that Pakistan's nuclear scientist A Q Khan had helped North Korea in developing their nuclear programme. In a statement issued by its First Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan on Wednesday, North Korea threatened to call off the talks if the Trump administration made denuclearisation a precondition.

India, which maintained minimal diplomatic relations with the DPRK despite pressure from Washington to close its mission in Pyongyang and cut trade ties, also used the fragile improvement in North Korea's ties with the U.S. to explore possibilities of cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including vocational education, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and promotion of yoga and traditional medicines.

On Wednesday, the MEA said, "The two sides chose to explore possibilities of cooperation in areas of mutual interest, including vocational education, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, promotion of Yoga and traditional medicines".

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