Not get­ting paid for Volvos no ob­sta­cle to Swe­den’s ties with N. Korea

New Straits Times - - World -

STOCK­HOLM: Swe­den has not yet been paid by North Korea for the hun­dreds of Volvo sa­loons it im­ported in the 1970s, and which can still be seen on the streets of the com­mu­nist country.

While the deal was not the com­mer­cial suc­cess Swe­den had hoped for, it serves as a re­minder of its long in­volve­ment in North Korea. This raises the ques­tion of whether the country could use its spe­cial re­la­tion­ship to act as an in­ter­me­di­ary in the nu­clear cri­sis be­tween North Korea and the United States.

Swe­den had played a cru­cial diplo­matic role with North Korea, most of­ten seen when it acted on be­half of the West when Western­ers got into trou­ble.

Swe­den’s role in the re­lease of Cana­dian pas­tor Hyeon Soo Lim this month and of US stu­dent Otto Warm­bier ear­lier this year re­flects his­tor­i­cal con­nec­tions that go back nearly half a cen­tury to the end of the Korean War, a legacy no other country in the West can match.

Swe­den was the first Western Euro­pean na­tion to es­tab­lish diplo­matic re­la­tions with the North in 1973, and the first to set up an em­bassy in Py­ongyang in 1975. One diplo­mat said the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Swe­den and North Korea was mostly con­sular, not aimed at ways to find a so­lu­tion to the nu­clear cri­sis.

A source with knowl­edge of the matter said the US needed some­one who could deal with con­sular is­sues and Swe­den could do that with the con­sent of the North Kore­ans. But the source also made clear that Swe­den’s role was not purely con­sular.

“Swe­den has been able to share in­for­ma­tion with the major play­ers in the re­gion and we are still do­ing that. We have mainly acted as a source of in­for­ma­tion and made sure that in­for­ma­tion reaches the most im­por­tant ac­tors,” the source added.

As for the Volvos, they seem to be do­ing well more than 40 years on.

The Swedish em­bassy in Py­ongyang last October tweeted a pic­ture of one of the cars in use as a taxi in the city of Chongjin, with al­most 500,000km on the clock, and “still un­paid for” by the North Kore­ans. Reuters

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