France to open cooperation office in N. Korea: report

12th July 2011, Comments 0 comments

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 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.

North Korea angrily denied the charge but went on to shell a border island last November, killing four South Koreans including two civilians.

Denuclearisation talks with Pyongyang, which has tested two nuclear bombs, have also been stalled since 2009.

The six-party talks, grouping the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States, are aimed at persuading Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons for energy aid and security and diplomatic benefits.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy had sent former minister Jack Lang to North Korea in 2009 for talks and Lang had on his return recommended that a cooperation office be set up, Le Monde reported.

© 2011 AFP

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