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N.K. ends isolation by sending diplomats to Europe, New York

N.K. ends isolation by sending diplomats to Europe, New York

Posted September. 03, 2014 07:29,   


North Korea is accelerating its diplomatic footsteps, while increasing the level and frequency of external contacts. Some figures who have refrained from visiting foreign countries thus far are taking overseas tours, and its foreign minister is attending a U.N. General Assembly meeting, as they engage in activities different from the past.

A diplomatic source said on Tuesday, “Kang Sok Ju, the international secretary of the North Korean Workers’ Party, will take a European tour beginning around this coming Saturday.” Kang will reportedly be visiting Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy for more than a week. Kang is the figure who spearheaded the signing of the 1994 North Korea-U.S. agreement in Geneva as the then first vice foreign minister of the Stalinist country. He was promoted to the deputy prime minister for foreign affairs in the North’s cabinet in 2010, and moved to the international affairs secretary of the Workers’ Party in May this year. He is taking an overseas tour for the first time in four years after a trip in his capacity as deputy prime minister.

Ri Su Yong, the North’s foreign minister, will attend the U.N. General Assembly meeting set to take place in New York at the end of this month. Generally, the head of the North’s mission to the U.S. would attend UN General Assembly meetings previously, and it is the first time in 15 years that a foreign minister is taking part in the meeting.

However, many analysts say that the North’s ‘strife’ to end diplomatic isolation will only bring about limited effect. The North outright declined South Korea’s offer in early August for high-level inter-Korean contacts to organize reunions of separated families on the occasion of Chuseok holiday that falls on next week. As the North is now going all-out in a diplomacy drive, the international community is suspicious of the motive hidden behind the move.

Kang, who possesses no title in the executive branch, will reportedly meet with mostly officials with political parties in counterpart countries during his European tour. Even though he comes to meet with former and incumbent government officials, he can merely form personal relationships. Also, Foreign Minister Ri is visiting the U.N. for no specific reason. The North’s foreign minister has had little real power, if any. Rather, it has been even believed that the first vice minister or vice minister holds more decision-making authority than the minister. As such, words and behaviors of the people Ri will meet in New York will likely illustrate his political weight.

The South Korean foreign ministry said, “Seoul is not seeking inter-Korean foreign ministers’ meeting at the U.N.” A source in the Seoul government said, “The international community is clear in its stance that it would not improve ties with the North unless Pyongyang makes improvement in its nuclear weapons program, the human rights issue, and inter-Korean relations,” adding, “Such messages will also be delivered to ranking North Korean officials on overseas tours.”

North Korea seems to have allowed three American detainees in the North to be interviewed by CNN and the Associated Press on Monday apparently with the intention to open a dialogue channel with Washington by staging ‘politics of hostages.’ A diplomatic source in Washington said, “Appeals by Bae and others that ‘the U.S. government has litter interest in me’ is the North Korean authority’s real intent,” adding, “The North’s purpose is to resume dialogue with the U.S. by using American detainees, and thus seek to secure lifting of sanctions against it.”