VK Singh holds talks in North Korea, first trip in 20 years

The North Korean town of Sinuiju seen from Dandong a city in China's northeast Liaoning province that has bet its economy on trade and investment with North Korea Jan. 9 2018

The North Korean town of Sinuiju seen from Dandong a city in China's northeast Liaoning province that has bet its economy on trade and investment with North Korea Jan. 9 2018

President Xi Jinping has expressed support for North Korea's avowed new shift to focus on economic development, along with improving relations with South Korea, during his meeting with a high-level delegation from North Korea's ruling Worker's Party. Minister of state (MoS) for external affairs V.K. Singh already began a crucial two-day visit to North Korea on Tuesday.

After the rapproachment between North and South Korea and the stage set for a Summit between the United States and North Korea, India has resumed ministerial-level visits from its side to North Korea after a gap of almost 20 years.

VK Singh is first Indian minister to visit North Korea in 20 years even as Pyongyang reconsiders meeting US on June 12
VK Singh to visit North Korea for peace talks

Singh is said to have reiterated India's support to the joint peace initiative of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea leadership, encouraging both sides to establish peace and prosperity in the Korean Peninsula.

In response to that, North Korea emphasised that being a friendly country, it will never allow any actions that would create concerns for India's security. In the past year, India had joined the USA and allies in "deploring" North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile tests, although it had earlier refrained from such a strong language. This is being perceived as a fresh irritant, ahead of the scheduled summit between Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump.

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"We support the improvement of North-South [Korean] relations, the promotion of dialogue between North Korea and the USA, denuclearization on the peninsula and North Korea's development of its economy", Xi said. In return, he was reportedly assured that North Korea would keep Indian interests in mind - North Korea and Pakistan have exchanged technologies and equipment in the past. In a statement issued by its First Vice-Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan on Wednesday, North Korea threatened to call off the talks if the Trump administration made denuclearisation a precondition. New Delhi rejected the then U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson's request to shut down its diplomatic mission in Pyongyang.

"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. The two leaders also agreed on enhancing people-to-people relations in the field of education and culture. 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.

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India and North Korea established formal diplomatic relations on December 10, 1973 and this year marks the 45th year of establishment of diplomatic relations.

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