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VK Singh first Indian min to visit North Korea in 20 yrs

VK Singh first Indian min to visit North Korea in 20 yrs

In a significant development, minister of state for external affairs V K Singh paid a quiet visit to Pyongyang to meet the North Korean leadership amid fast-paced developments in the peninsula.

India has sent a government minister to North Korea for the first time in almost two decades for talks on political and regional issues, the foreign ministry said on Wednesday, following signs of a thaw on the Korean peninsula.

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 US and South Korea, calling it a provocation and a preparation for an invasion.

A North Korean Workers Party of Korea (WPK) delegation met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday, the third time Xi has met with DPRK officials in recent since late March.

Further, Singh reiterated the on-going peace process between North-South Korea as he encouraged both the sides to establish peace and prosperity in the Korean peninsula.

Chief among the talking points, General V.K. Singh raised concerns, in line with New Delhi's previous statements, asking North Korea to address the nuclear proliferation linkages to Pakistan.

In 2004, Pakistan's most famous nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted to have transferred nuclear technology to North Korea and other nations, a confession that led to his detainment for five years. The ministry of external affairs (MEA), in a statement from New Delhi, said the "MoS highlighted the threat from nuclear proliferation, in particular India's concerns in the context of the proliferation linkages with India's neighbourhood".

China remains North Korea's most important trading partner despite imposing sanctions to try and curb the regime's nuclear ambitions.

It may be recalled that in October past year, India had made it clear that it would not shut its embassy in North Korea. Interestingly, Singh's visit coincided with the first cautionary note being struck by the North Korean government, as Kim Kye Gwan, the first vice minister of foreign affairs released a statement saying that if the United States national security adviser John Bolton continued to advocate the "Libya template" Kim may not even show up at the Singapore summit.

India and North Korea also made a decision to explore possibilities of cooperation in areas of mutual interest including vocational education, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, promotion of Yoga and traditional medicines. "Both sides agreed to strengthen people-to-people contacts through educational and cultural exchange, to mark 45 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries". India had said that its trade with North Korea was in any case "minimal" and that it has a "small" embassy in Pyongyang.