World European Parliament in 'secret' talks with North Korea

18:32  14 march  2018
18:32  14 march  2018 Source:   AFP

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A European Parliament delegation said on Wednesday it has been conducting secret talks with North Korea over the last three years to try to persuade Pyongyang to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.

US, S Korea and Japan discuss denuclearization, summit talks

  US, S Korea and Japan discuss denuclearization, summit talks Top U.S., South Korean and Japanese officials discussed how to achieve complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula during weekend talks ahead of upcoming inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korean summits, Seoul said Monday. Seoul officials who visited Pyongyang recently say North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to hold summit talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in late April. Seoul says Kim proposed meeting with President Donald Trump, and Trump agreed to him by the end of May.The developments have raised hopes for a potential breakthrough in the North Korean nuclear crisis.

The group led by British lawmaker Nirj Deva has met senior North Korean officials, including ministers, 14 times and plans another meeting in Brussels in the near future.

News of the below-the-radar diplomacy effort comes after the surprise announcement that U.S. President Donald Trump plans a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, part of fast-paced developments following an Olympic detente.

Deva said he and his colleagues on the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula had been "relentlessly advocating the case for dialogue without preconditions" to end the increasingly tense nuclear standoff with the North.

"I did much of the advocacy in secrecy with my colleagues. It is only now that I am revealing our efforts to a wider audience in the light of the proposed talks," Deva said.

The group also met senior officials in the U.S., China, Japan and South Korea, Deva said, for dialogue aimed at achieving a "verifiable denuclearized Korean peninsula."

"We met in secret with senior North Koreans on 14 occasions. We understood their concerns and they understand ours," he told a press conference at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Hopes raised for detente 

The MEPs held regular clandestine meetings with the North Koreans in Brussels, Deva said, listening to their concerns and trying to convince them of the risks of nuclear war.

"We told them in no uncertain terms that if they carry on with the missile program and the nuclear bomb program they will only lead to an inevitable conclusion which is unthinkable," Deva said.

EU diplomacy is normally carried out by the bloc's dedicated foreign affairs department, which has diplomatic missions all around the world. Deva said his delegation had a role to play in developing "confidence building measures" to support the planned U.S.-North Korea dialogue.

And Deva said that from his meetings he believed the tough sanctions the EU has in place against North Korea had been an important factor in driving Pyongyang to agree to talks.

"Part of the reason that this happened was the sanctions started to bite poor people — not the elite," he said.

The sudden announcement of the summit between Kim and Trump and Pyongyang's reported willingness to discuss ending its nuclear program have raised hopes of a detente after months of tension.

As well as the Kim-Trump meeting, North and South Korea are also planning a summit next month.

China cautiously 'cheering on' Korea talks .
Beijing welcomes a planned inter-Korean summit, but echoes Japan's warning that there is far to go.But foreign ministry officials have cautioned it is too early to assume the talks will bring a lasting breakthrough on the central issue - nuclear weapons.

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