It never got paid for the Volvos, but could Sweden mediate with North Korea?

It never got paid for the Volvos, but could Sweden mediate with North Korea?
From Reuters - August 11, 2017

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden has not yet been paid by North Korea for the hundreds of Volvo saloons it imported in the 1970s and which can still be seen on the streets of the communist country.

While the deal was not the commercial success Sweden had hoped for, it serves as a reminder of its long involvement in North Korea. This raises the question of whether Sweden could use its special relationship to act as an intermediary in the nuclear crisis between North Korea and the United States.

The United States has no formal diplomatic relations with North Korea, limiting the options for the two sides to reduce tensions over North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons programs.

Sweden, however, plays a crucial diplomatic role with the secretive government in North Korea, most often seen when it acts on behalf of the West when Westerners get into trouble.

Ulv Hanssen, Research Assistant and Associate Fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, said it was not unthinkable that Sweden could act as an intermediary between Washington and Pyongyang in the current crisis.

"Sweden has done so on numerous occasions before, especially in relation to imprisoned Americans," he said.

"Acting as amediator between two states on the brink of war isunquestionably a very demanding task, but Sweden has the advantage ofenjoying the trust of not only Washington, but also Pyongyang," he added.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry declined to comment.


Sweden's role in the release of Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim this month and of U.S. student Otto Warmbier earlier this year reflects historical connections that go back nearly half a century to the end of the Korean War, a legacy no other country in the West can match.

North and South Korea are still technically at war, but Sweden is a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, which was set up to oversee the armistice, undertake inspections, observe military exercises and promote trust between the two sides.

Analysts say that while Pyongyang remains deeply suspicious of the West, Sweden's neutral status has helped it to play an albeit limited role as "honest broker" with the North.

Sweden was the first Western European nation to establish diplomatic relations with the North, in 1973, and the first to set up an embassy in Pyongyang in 1975.



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