Norway in unprecedented role in North Korean talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong UnNorth Korean leader Kim Jong Un.Photo (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)

Norway may be on its way into unknown terrain as peacekeepers if it is true that there are now talks ongoing between North Korea and the United States in Oslo.

A number of Japanese and South Korean medias have reported unofficial talks between North Korean representatives and a US delegation in Oslo this week.

If this is correct, Norway has got an unprecedented role, says Director Kristian Berg Harpviken at the Peace Research Institute PRIO.

“Norway has traditionally mediated in internal conflicts and civil wars. There have been talks and mediation between a government and one or more non-governmental military groups, ”  the peace researcher points out .

“I can not remember a recent example where Norway has mediated in a conflict between states,” he says.

Harpviken thinks there is no doubt that Norway is recognized as a mediator and facilitator in peace processes throughout most of the world. He thinks this may have played a part in making  Oslo desireable.

“In such conversations, it is important to reach agreement in a place where all parties feel it is OK to meet. Norway can then be a good candidate. Norway is a fairly harmless player with few interests in North Korea, he says.

Geir Helgesen, Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies in Copenhagen, believes  Norway’s early recognition of North Korea as its own state also plays a role here.

“It is not forgotten that we were among the first in the western world to establish normal relations with North Korea,” said Helgesen.

Representative from North Korean UD
Japanese media reports that North Korea’s delegation is headed by Choe Son-hui, Director of North America Department in the North Korean Foreign Ministry.

An anonymous source said, according to the news agency Reuters, that the talks take place in Oslo, and that the US delegation is led by Suzanne DiMaggio of the Think tank New America. At least one former US official is participating but no one from the current administration is involved, according to Reuters’ information.

The messages are not officially verified.

“We do not want to comment on any questions related to any Norwegian involvement in peace and reconciliation work,” said press officer Arne Lunde in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“You have to go back in time to find a situation where the possibility of real armed conflict has been as great as today. But this in itself makes it extraordinarily important that the parties meet now “, he says.


Source: NTB scanpix / Norway Today