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India-North Korea ties to counter Pak-China equation

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North Korea

Presenting a surprise element to India’s foreign policy, the country hosted Foreign Minister of North Korea early this year. This exceptional foreign visit by a political leader of the reclusive east Asian country and a first to India by a North Korean leader in many years is certain to be noted.

The visit was noteworthy as India is neither a negotiator between the North and South Korea nor has any part in the international dialogues for nuclear issues faced by the country.

The visit can be seen as India’s vigorous Act East Policy. Though India remained concerned over Pakistan’s trade of nuclear fissile material to Pyongyang in return of missile development tech from North Korea.

In the times when the US has moderated its associations with Russia or other quondam Communist Bloc and is also investing into easing relations with Cuba, India’s attempt to develop ties with North Korea should only be welcomed.

In September 2015, India designated MoS Kiren Rijiju to represent the country at an official event held at the North Korean Embassy in New Delhi. This was reportedly one of the first times that a minister was delegated to represent the government at an official gathering marking North Korea’s Independence Day.

Rijiju had stated after the event that the government was interested in developing its ties with the country and had a discussion to achieve the same.

“We feel that there should not be the usual old hurdles and suspicion, we have been discussing the government ways and means of upgrading bilateral ties.” Rijiju was quoted as saying by a newspaper.  

India could look forward to venture into the mineral market of North Korea, especially the rare earth elements (REE) available in the country. However, the vital interest of India is in concerns with North Korea’s missile cooperation with Pakistan. One of the expected goals would be to retrieve strategic position vis-à-vis China, hence accelerating the Indian ambition to construct a superior status in the Asia-Pacific.

India, in the past, wasn’t able to focus on its relation with North Korea not only over the concerns of North Korea-Pakistan nexus but also the developing tensions in the US-North Korea relations.

The agreement on nuclear non-proliferation between the two countries in 1994 had created an environment of duress. The US blamed North Korea of covertly engaging in a nuclear weapons programme. The discussion on North Korea had impacted India due to the growing ties between India and US during that period. The strategic commitment was shaping between the two countries in regard to the post-Pokhran II phase – said the memoir, on the extended, closed-door negotiations in 1998-2000 between- Jaswant Singh-Strobe Talbott, named ‘My Friend Strobe’.

Thus, the overbearing of strengthening strategic rendezvous with the US was feasible and obligatory to India to keep a certain aloofness from North Korea. Also, the UN prohibitions on North Korea in view of their repetitive nuclear tests since 2006 added on to the lack of economic reinforcements in the bilateral sphere had been deterrents for political visits from the India.

For India to develop better ties with North Korea in the growing need of interdependence among the nation, it will have to chart a strategy specifying the importance of it as well as of the issues faced by both the countries in an advancement of relations. India will have to mention its concerns such as nuclear ties of North Korea with Pakistan and other security correlated concerns. Also, by being focussed on the common benefits they can achieve better results on the lines of health, food, agriculture and other similar developmental areas.

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North Korea Bans Imports of Chinese Pork on Fears of African Swine Fever Epidemic

“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source

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chinese pork, african swine fever
The import ban seems to have had no effect on the price of pork, making the source believe that Chinese pork is still getting in. Wikimedia Commons

North Korean authorities have banned imports of Chinese pork as an African swine fever (ASF) epidemic rages north of the Yalu River border between the two countries.

According to the latest update from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, China has seen 138 ASF outbreaks since August 2018 and more than a million pigs have been culled since the initial outbreak in Liaoning province, which borders North Korea.

North Korea’s ministry of agriculture confirmed the country’s first ASF outbreak in Chagang province on May 23 and South Korea’s ministry of unification has proposed discussions on how the two Koreas can work together to stop the further spread of the disease.

But RFA sources in North Korea say Chinese pork is still being sold in local markets. “A few days ago I heard from a customs official that North Korea has completely blocked all imports of pork and beef from China to prevent the spread of African swine fever,” said a source from North Hamgyong province in an interview with RFA’s Korean Service on June 2.

chinese pork, african swine fever
Pigs stand in a barn at a pig farm in Jiangjiaqiao village in northern China’s Hebei province on May 8, 2019. Pork lovers worldwide are wincing at prices that have jumped by up to 40 percent as China’s struggle to stamp out African swine fever in its vast pig herds sends shockwaves through global meat markets. RFA

“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source. “I heard that in some areas, including Pyongyang and Sinuiju, they are trying to control pork sales, but no action has been taken yet in North Hamgyong,” said the source. The source said that the ban is quite rare, especially since diseases among livestock are common during this part of the year.

“There have been infectious swine diseases in the past, but they never banned the import of pork from China. At this time of year, we are usually hit with infectious swine diseases and many pigs are culled, but none of the residents bury the dead pigs,” the source said. The import ban seems to have had no effect on the price of pork, making the source believe that Chinese pork is still getting in.

“The price of pork is between 14 and 15 Chinese Yuan (slightly more than $2) per kilogram, which is the same as before the authorities banned Chinese pork. Even though customs authorities are blocking pork imports from China, there is so much pork being smuggled in,” the source said. Another source, also from North Hamgyong, said the ban is strange, given that North Korean customs officials generally follow the lead of their Chinese counterparts.

“On the first of the month, pork that was to be brought in from China was quarantined at North Korean customs and sent back. It is unusual for our customs office to block this pork shipment because it didn’t have any problem going through Chinese customs,” said the second source.

“That [particular] pork shipment was to be brought in by a Chinese citizen of Korean descent who is a restaurant owner in Rason,” the second source said. “He thought there would be no problem going through customs because he regularly brings in pork from China. But the Wonjong customs office did not let it pass through on orders from the Central Committee,” the second source said.

chinese pork, african swine fever
“North Koreans prefer Chinese pork to domestically produced pork, because it has thicker layers of meat and fat,” said the source. Wikimedia Commons

The second source said the restaurant owner was surprised his shipment was held back. “He has had no problem bringing in pork from China for several years now. Even when swine fever [started] spreading in China, he kept bringing it in. It’s the first time he has been stopped and he’s totally bewildered,” the second source said.

The second source said that the price of pork remains stable despite the ban, and no cases of ASF have been reported in Rason. Even so, residents have become fearful of the disease.

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“[They think] African swine fever is highly contagious and has a fatality rate of 100%, but Chinese pork is still being sold at the local markets and no restrictions have been announced,” said the second source. According to a USDA fact sheet, ASF is deadly only to domestic and feral pigs and does not affect humans. People can, however, spread the virus by coming in contact with the bodily fluids of infected livestock.

According to a source in South Pyongan province, North Korea has not culled pigs in any of its state-run farms where an ASF outbreak has occurred. The pigs instead were supplied to sausage factories at low cost. This has caused a flood of sausages to enter the market, cutting the price of sausage in half. (RFA)

Reported by Jieun Kim for RFA’s Korean Service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.