France has dispatched a special envoy to North Korea for talks that are expected to focus on establishing diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and possibly on the country's nuclear program.
French special envoy Jack Lang arrived is in North Korea for a five-day visit that could mark a turnaround in relations with the isolated Asian country. France is the only major European country not to have formal ties with Pyongyang. Observers say dispatching a high-level envoy like Lang, a former French minister, is an unusual move.
France is not a member of the six-party talks aimed to end North Korea's nuclear-weapons program, but it is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Lang told news agencies the French government could play a role in reviving the stalled six-party talks.
North Korea expert John Swenson-Wright also believes Lang's visit might be helpful. Swenson-Wright, an analyst at the London-based policy institute Chatham House, says North Korea appears to be trying to re-engage with the outside world. "With the new change in the rhetoric surrounding North Korea and signs of closer engagement and willingness to sit down, many European states are reconsidering and reassessing their approach toward Pyongyang. And or course, there is the obvious linkage between what happens in North Korea and what happens in Iran - to the extent which North Korea is able to develop its nuclear capability with impunity sends a very potentially destabilizing signal to the Iranians," he said.
It is unclear why France has chosen this moment to explore establishing ties with North Korea. But talks about Iran's nuclear program are stalled and Iran has yet to agree to a United Nations plan to enrich its uranium overseas.