New Delhi (Sputnik) — In a major turn of events, India has sent its minister of state for external affairs, General VK Singh, to Pyongyang, the first high-level ministerial visit in two decades, to hold talks with the North Korean leadership. The development comes in the backdrop of North Korea threatening to abandon a scheduled summit with US President Donald Trump next month.
"The visit was planned in alignment with warming up relations between North Korea and the US. Kim Jong-un has agreed to hold a summit with the US in Singapore on June 12. However, dialing-up of rhetoric from North Korea on Wednesday seems to put the Indian side in a piquant situation," Maya Mirchandani, Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation tweeted.
“visit was planned in alignment with warming up relns b/w NKorea & US w/ Chairman Kim agreeing to hold a summit w/US in Singapore on 12/6. However, dialling-up of rhetoric from NKorea on Wed seems to put the Indian side in a piquant position” by @DevirupaM https://t.co/YtqDSH7U8v— Maya Mirchandani (@maya206) May 16, 2018
On Wednesday morning, North Korean officials said that the country had no interest in a meeting if it is based on "one-sided" demands to give up its nuclear weapons program.
Nonetheless, India's minister of external affairs did not divulge details till a North Korean news agency published photographs of VK Singh in Pyongyang, but sources told Sputnik that VK Singh traveled from China and arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday.
Earlier this year, India had welcomed the historic inter-Korean summit meeting held at Panmunjom on April 27.
"We hope that such engagement will help in reducing tensions and pave the way for lasting peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula. India supports all efforts to bring about peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy," India's ministry of external affairs had said on April 28.
"India condemned each of the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea and imposed sanctions but at the same time kept lines of communication open. This visit means India wants to personally extend its support to the North Korean regime's decision to give up nuclear weapons. Interestingly, V K Singh traveled via China, so there is that angle too. India has taken up this step with both the US and China being aware of the fact," Pooja Bhatt, a research associate in a Delhi-based think tank, Centre for Air Power Studies, told Sputnik.
Till now North Korea was largely isolated and shunned negotiations. Now, with more countries engaging with North Korea it would make dialogues possible on several lines, Pooja Bhatt added.
Despite a lot of pressure from the United States, India has stayed firm in its resolve to continue diplomatic connections with North Korea.
"I told secretary Tillerson that embassies of some of your friendly countries should remain there so that some channels of communication remain open. Many times, you may have a need to talk … a mutual dialogue may be required to resolve some issues. At least one embassy should be there from your friends. And I believe that he understood this," said Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj after meeting with Tillerson.
India also maintains trade relations with North Korea and, until last year, was its second biggest trade partner after China.