France is about to open an office in North Korea to develop cultural ties and to represent French aid groups working in the totalitarian state, the foreign ministry said. The office is to be headed by a French diplomat with Asian expertise, Olivier Vaysset, “given the needs that have been identified in the cultural and humanitarian domains,” ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said. Vaysset’s mission does not representFrancereopening diplomatic ties with North Korea. With Estonia, Franceis one of only two European Union powers to have no formal links with Pyongyang. The French envoy will be the only expatriate staff member at the mission, which will be an office in a building currently used by British, German and Swedish officials. There are no plans to open a full embassy. Most EU countries recognisedNorth Koreain 2000 or 2001 at a moment of relative warmth in relations between the isolated regime and the international community following a summit between North and South Korea. France did not follow suit, and North Korea’s relations with the outside world have worsened dramatically since, in particular after Pyongyang withdrew from the nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 2003. Paris argues that North Koreamust improve its human rights record and address international concerns over the regime’s nuclear weapons programme before full diplomatic ties are agreed. “If there were substantial changes on the peninsula in terms of weapons non-proliferation, inter-Korean dialogue and human rights, we might adapt our position, but we’re not there today,” a French diplomat said.France’s former special envoy to Pyongyang, ex-culture minister Jack Lang, visited the North in November 2009. He said afterwards that France had offered to forge cultural links but not full diplomatic ties.
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