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General VK Singh makes surprise visit to North Korea

General VK Singh makes surprise visit to North Korea

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.

The visit by General Singh closely followed the presentation of credentials by the new Indian Ambassador Atul Gotsurve to Pyongyang. Singh reiterated India's support for the joint peace initiative of North and South Korean leaderships, encouraging both sides to continue their efforts for peace in the peninsula. North Korea stated that the USA was considering its intention of denuclearising the Korean peninsula as a sign of weakness.

But in a major move, North Korea has assured India that "as a friendly country DPRK (N. Korea) will never allow any action that would create concerns for India's security".

Xi urged them to further develop bilateral relations and hailed the visit as a "concrete measure" resulting from two summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

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. This is the first ministerial-level visit from India to DPRK after nearly 20 years. Kim said Pyongyang would be forced to reconsider a summit with the United States next month if Washington presses for unilateral nuclear abandonment.

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

The pleasantries exchanged are a sign of progress, more so given the MEA's condemnation of North Korea's launch of a nuclear missile in July a year ago.

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. "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) side emphasised that as a friendly country DPRK will never allow any action that would create concerns for India's security", said the statement. In 2015, North Korean foreign minister Ri Su Yong had visited New Delhi to hold talks with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

In what could indicate more trade and interaction now between the two countries, the MEA said, "The two sides made a decision to explore possibilities of cooperation in the areas of mutual interest, including vocational education, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, promotion of yoga and traditional medicines". The two leaders also agreed on enhancing people-to-people relations in the field of education and culture.

The dejected state of the embassy is reflective of the current ties between North Korea and India, who first established relations in 1973. India had been North Korea's second biggest trade partner after China.