France to open Pyongyang office (Take 2)

UPDATE 2 (2011-7-15): Adam Cathcard provides additional data in the comments.

UPDATE 1 (2011-7-12): Over a year after first making the announcement, France reiterates that it is opening an office in the DPRK.  According to the AFP:

France will open a cooperation bureau in North Korea, Le Monde newspaper said Tuesday, but underscored that Paris was not launching diplomatic relations with the reclusive Stalinist state.

A senior French diplomat is currently in Pyongyang where he “will present to the North Koreans” the future French representative, the daily said, identifying him as Olivier Vaysset, a diplomat who has worked in Singapore.

“The opening of this office does not signify that France is opening as such diplomatic relations with this totalitarian country,” it said but added that it could serve as a “diplomatic intermediary.”

The proposed office will handle cultural cooperation, it said.

The French embassy in Seoul declined comment on the report, saying any comment would have to come from Paris.

The then-French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said in March last year his country would not establish diplomatic relations with the North but would open an office to support non-governmental groups.

“We are not going to open an embassy, certainly not,” Kouchner told a news conference in Tokyo. “Open an office, yes, in order to help the NGOs there.”

France is the only major European Union member that does not have diplomatic ties with the communist state.

Paris has argued that the human rights situation must improve and has cited concerns over nuclear proliferation.

French special envoy to Pyongyang, Jack Lang, visited the North in November 2009. He said afterwards that France had offered to forge permanent cultural links with North Korea but not full diplomatic ties.

The French move comes as ties between North and South Korea are at their lowest ebb after Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.

Original Post (2010-3-18): According to the AFP:

France will not open diplomatic relations with North Korea but plans to establish an office there to support non-governmental groups, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Thursday.

‘We are not going to open an embassy, certainly not,’ Kouchner said at a press conference in Tokyo. ‘Open an office, yes, in order to help the NGOs (non-governmental organisations) there.’

France is the only European Union country other than Latvia that does not have diplomatic ties with the communist state.

Paris has argued that the human rights situation in North Korea must improve and has cited concerns over nuclear proliferation.

In December the French special envoy to Pyongyang, Jack Lang, said France had offered to forge permanent cultural links with North Korea but not full diplomatic ties, hoping to pressure it on the nuclear issue.

‘Our proposal… is to open a permanent structure of cooperation with North Korea – humanitarian, cultural and linguistic cooperation,’ Lang told a hearing of members of the French parliament at the time.

Kouchner, asked to clarify the French position during his Japan visit, said that ‘we are not rewarding them at all in opening an office’ that would support French NGOs working in the isolated country.

Additional Information:

1. Kim Jong-il’s neice committed suicide in Paris.

2. The Kim family is fond of French doctors.

Read the full story here:
France rules out opening embassy in N.Korea
Associated Free Press
3/18/2010

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  • Adam Cathcart

    French-North Korean Friendship Association has an overview with additional links: 

    http://www.amitiefrancecoree.org/article-le-mae-annonce-l-ouverture-du-bureau-fran-ais-de-cooperation-a-pyongyang-79267788.htmlIt is further interesting that the French insistence in December 2009 on setting up channels for the discussion of human rights issues appears to be going nowhere: http://adamcathcart.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/north-korea-and-france-agree-to-deepen-cultural-exchanges/

    Given the recent focus on Afghanistan and this was announced just prior to the standard Bastille Day pause, this story made very few waves in Paris (where I have been since July 12), eliciting no mention that I have found in standard dailies like Liberation or Le Figaro.