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North Korea FM engages in brisk diplomacy at UN

28 September 2018 10:21

NEW YORK/SEOUL. KAZINFORM - North Korea's top diplomat has actively engaged with counterparts from the four major powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula this week, illustrating the North's expanded diplomatic profile following leader Kim Jong-un's summits with the United States and South Korea, Yonhap reports.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho arrived in New York on Tuesday to attend the United Nations General Assembly and has held talks with his counterparts from the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

Ri also addressed a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) member states in New York on Wednesday, accusing "forces that seek world hegemony" of pretending to support peace culture in public while actually going against it.

He is scheduled to give an address at the U.N. assembly on Saturday, meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and engage in bilateral diplomacy with other countries friendly to the North.

Ri's brisk moves on the sidelines of the U.N. assembly this year are in sharp contrast with his abstention from public activities in New York last year.

With tensions escalating on the Korean Peninsula a year ago due to the North's nuclear and missile provocations, there were no reports of Ri having contacts with China and Russia in New York during the U.N. General Assembly in 2017.

Watchers say North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's successive summit diplomacy with South Korea, the U.S. and China appears to have widened the North's diplomatic horizon on international stages like the U.N. assembly.

Indeed, Ri was given special protocol and even treated like a head of state when he landed at a New York airport on Sept. 25.

One day after his arrival in New York, the North Korean foreign minister held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, apparently to discuss the latter's fourth visit to Pyongyang and prepare for the second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The meeting itself between the top diplomats of North Korea and the U.S. on the sidelines of the U.N. assembly was seen as exceptional. Pompeo said after the talks that he accepted Kim's invitation to go to Pyongyang in October.

On the same day, Ri held separate meetings with Chinese State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

According to the watchers, Pyongyang has sought to take advantage of its alliance with China and Russia in its ongoing denuclearization negotiations with the U.S.

Beijing and Moscow have also sought to maintain their influence on the North in the process of its improvement of relationship with the U.S., they note. In particular, China and Russia have persistently called for easing U.N. sanctions on the North since Kim's first summit with Trump in Singapore in June.

Ri's meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono later Wednesday also drew attention amid Tokyo's moves to prevent it being isolated from the denuclearization talks.

The foreign ministerial talks between North Korea and Japan were held for the first time since August 2015. Kono said he contacted Ri, instead of holding talks, on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Singapore in August.

It remains to be seen whether Ri will hold talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, in New York.

In a dispatch from Pyongyang on Friday, the North's Korean Central News Agency carried English excerpts of Ri's address to the foreign ministers' meeting of the NAM held at the U.N. headquarters.

Ri was quoted as saying, "At present, the active promotion of the Culture of Peace presented itself as a matter of vital importance more so now than ever in the building of a just and peaceful new world. Unfortunately the efforts of the NAM member states to establish the Culture of Peace have encountered grave challenges in the prevailing complicated state of international affairs."

He leveled criticism at "forces that seek world hegemony" for going against this peace culture, but didn't mention any specific countries.
Ri went on to say that the North's government will continue to remain true to the noble ideals and principles of the NAM and fulfill its responsibility and mission.

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