India rejects US call to shut embassy in North Korea


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India on Wednesday rejected the United States’ call to snap trade and diplomatic ties with North Korea in the wake of its continued pursuit of long-range nuclear weapons.

New Delhi rather offered Washington DC the services of its diplomats posted in Pyongyang to open a channel of communication between the US and North Korea.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that India’s trade relations with North Korea had already been nominal.

She also said that New Delhi maintained a small embassy in Pyongyang with few officials and it could serve as a channel of communication between the US Government and Kim Jong-Un’s regime in North Korea.

“As far as shutting down our embassy (in Pyongyang) is concerned, we discussed the issue. I told Secretary Tillerson that some of the friendly nations of the US should maintain diplomatic missions in North Korea to make it sure that a channel of communication (between Washington and Pyongyang) remains available,” said Sushma.

The minister was addressing a press conference along with the US secretary of state after they held a meeting at Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan, the headquarters of the Ministry of External Affairs, in New Delhi.

Tillerson nudged Sushma to consider snapping India’s diplomatic relations with North Korea and bring down the volume of trade between the two nations further.

The Embassy of India in Pyongyang has only five officials, led by Ambassador Jasminder Kasturia.

India’s export to North Korea was worth $ 110.88 million and the import was worth $ 87.90 million.

Tension escalated between the US and North Korea this year as Kim Jong-Un’s regime conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests.

This alarmed the world as the tests demonstrated the reclusive nation’s ability to launch ballistic missiles beyond its immediate region.

New Delhi maintained that North Korea’s “continued pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and its proliferation links” posed “a grave threat” to international peace and stability.

India has since long been concerned over North Korea’s clandestine defence technology cooperation with Pakistan.

A source said New Delhi suspects that the now-revealed Pyongyang-Islamabad secret defence cooperation, which in the mid-1990s led to the supply of Rodong Missiles and technology to Pakistan, is still continuing.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman called for a probe into North Korea’s “proliferation linkages”.

“Those who have supported it’s (North Korea) nuclear and missile programme should be held accountable,” she said, addressing the 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) in Manila.

Abdul Qadeer Khan, the founder of the nuclear programme of Pakistan, was in 2003 found to have traded know-how and technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea.

In 2011, Khan made public documents in support of his claim that North Korea had bribed senior officials of the Pakistani army to share nuclear technology and certain equipment with Pyongyang.

New Delhi received inputs, suggesting that certain nuclear materials supplied to Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission by the Suntech Technology Company Limited of China, in the recent years, were being diverted to North Korea in violation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

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