VK Singh visits N Korea to discuss growth in peninsula

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As the KCNA put out more photographs of Singh's programme, the external affairs ministry (MEA) broke its silence in the evening and confirmed that he was on a two-day visit to the DPRK at the invitation of the North Korean government. A readout by MEA said that Singh "held discussions with the H.E. Mr. Kim Yong Dae, Vice President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, H.E. Mr. Ri Yong Ho, Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr. Pak Chun Nam, Minister of Culture and Mr. Choe Hui Chol, Vice Foreign Minister of DPRK on a range of issues covering political, regional, economic, educational and cultural cooperation".

This is the first ministerial-level visit from India to DPRK after nearly 20 years.

The North Korean leadership provided him an overview of some of the recent developments in the peninsula. Experts believe that since 1970s, Pakistan and North Korea have cooperated extensively on the development of ballistic missile and nuclear weapons technologies. "Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) continued pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and its proliferation links pose a grave threat to worldwide peace and stability", a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs had said previous year when North Korea had launched its global Ballistic Missile.

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.

India has always maintained that Pakistan's nuclear scientist A Q Khan had helped North Korea in developing their nuclear programme.

It may be recalled that in October previous year, India had made it clear that it would not shut its embassy in North Korea.

However, US insistence of reducing North Korean diplomatic presence in India, as well as Indian diplomatic presence in Pyongyang, had been gently rejected by the Indian establishment. In 2017, New Delhi had even refused a request from then U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to shut down its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang altogether.

"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", it stated. People familiar with China-North Korea ties said the officials would visit areas including the inland province of Shaanxi and Shanghai for an economic inspection tour. India had said that its trade with North Korea was in any case "minimal" and that it has a "small" embassy in Pyongyang. India had been North Korea's second biggest trade partner after China.

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