Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for Finland

Newsline: North Korean diplomat heads to Finland ahead of possible US talks

A senior North Korean diplomat left for Finland on Sunday for talks with former U.S. and South Korean officials, Yonhap News Agency reported, amid a series of diplomatic encounters ahead of a possible U.S.-North Korean summit. North Korea is pursuing its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. Security Council sanctions and has made no secret of its plans to develop a missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. It defends the programs as a necessary deterrent against a possible U.S. invasion. The United States stations 28,500 troops in South Korea but denies any invasion plans. Tensions have eased in recent weeks, coinciding with North Korea’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in the South last month. Choe Kang Il, a deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea’s foreign ministry, plans to attend the “track 1.5 talks”, according to Yonhap, reflecting planned contact between former U.S. officials and current North Korean ones in a broader bid to end the standoff over North Korea’s weapons programs. South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement North Korea would participate in the meeting joined by former South Korean officials and academics but did not provide further details.



Newsline: UPS concedes shipment to Iranian embassy in Finland

UPS has acknowledged it inadvertently let a shipment of printer cartridges reach the Iranian embassy in Finland, violating a U.S. Treasury regulation. Sandy Springs-based UPS said a customer in Sweden shipped the package to the Iranian embassy in Helsinki in February. UPS at the time intercepted and locked down the shipment at its facility in Finland, then filed a report with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control as required, according to a disclosure in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.


Newsline: Chinese Embassy in Finland Refutes Spy Allegation

The Chinese Embassy in Finland issued a press release after media reports alleged China had been possibly behind cyber espionage against Finnish foreign ministry. “Many countries including China are victims of the recent cyber attacks,” said the press release, adding that China has consistently sought to promote international cooperation on combating cyber crimes. The embassy said that China has scrupulously abided by international law and principles of international relations, and “the Chinese government and military authorities have never supported any activities of this kind.” Finnish commercial broadcaster MTV3 reported on Thursday that large-scale spying on IT networks at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been uncovered. The channel quoted sources as speculating that Russia and China were suspected of responsibility for the espionage, believed to have happened early this year. Refusing to name any suspects, Finnish Foreign Minister Errki Tuomioja said that an investigation was underway.


Newsline: Denmark, Finland to Upgrade Palestinian Diplomatic Status

Denmark and Finland plan to upgrade the status of their respective Palestinian representative offices in Copenhagen and Helsinki to that of an embassy, the Danish foreign ministry said Saturday. “It is with satisfaction that we announce our joint intention to work with the Palestinians to be able to upgrade the status of the Palestinian missions in Copenhagen and Helsinki,” the foreign ministers of Finland and Denmark, Villy Soevndal and Erkki Tuomioja, said in a joint statement. The changes are expected to be implemented sometime in 2013, it said. The move would “not entail a formal bilateral recognition of a sovereign Palestinian state by Denmark and Finland,” the statement said. In November, Denmark and Finland backed a resolution recognizing the Palestinians as a non-member observer state at the U.N. The two ministers said they hoped their intentions would “encourage president Abbas to engage with determination in the necessary negotiations with the Israeli government on a two-state solution.” Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki hailed the announcement. Neighboring Sweden’s parliament voted in March to upgrade the Palestinian mission in Stockholm to that of an embassy.


Commentary: US Ambassador to Finland makes waves

Bruce Oreck the US ambassador to Finland, is a well-known ex-body builder with an outsized personality. In Finland, the media have been fascinated with his past life, putting him on the cover of magazines — one time without a shirt, even. US diplomacy in Finland has never been stronger. Quite literally — at least if the bulging biceps of the US Ambassador to Finland are anything to go by. Bruce Oreck, former attorney and former fundraiser for President Barack Obama, took up his post in 2009. That last name might be familiar; he’s the son of David Oreck, the vacuum cleaner manufacturer


Newsline: Government savings shrink Finland’s global embassy network

More Finnish embassies are being eliminated as part of the government’s ongoing savings drive. Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee wanted, but was not granted, additional funding for the country’s network of missions abroad. In addition, Finland’s failed bid for a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council has released any previous fetters on trimming overseas representation. The government’s programme of spending cuts has compelled the Foreign Ministry to look for savings by closing a number of Finnish embassies abroad. According to the Ministry’s estimates about 15 embassies will have to close their doors to meet savings targets. So far about half of that number have already been mothballed, including the embassy in the Philippine capital Manila, consulates in Canton, China and Sydney, Australia, as well as Finland’s main consulate in Hamburg, Germany, due to close next year. New closures will not be decided before government has settled framework budgets covering the next few years to 2015. Government’s 2013 budget is based in part on a spending allocation of 6.2 million euros for the embassy network. This represents a seven percent cut in expenditure. So far the programme of overseas mission reductions has focused primarily on consulates, which are secondary to main embassy representation in foreign countries.


Newsline: Finland to close more embassies

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs will decide in September on closing embassies next year, said under-secretary of state Peter Stenlund in an STT interview. Stenlund did not tell which embassies could close, so as not to risk affecting bilateral relations with the affected countries. Heikki Patomäki, a professor of politics at Helsinki University, says that embassy closures could threaten Finland’s bid for a place on the UN Security Council. “Those countries where Finland closes embassies could think that Finland will not represent their views in the security council,” Patomäki said. If successful, Finland would have a place on the council for the 2013–2014 term.