Published On: Fri, Aug 11th, 2017

North Korea crisis: Could Sweden stop a nuclear war?


According to Ulv Hanssen, research assistant and associate fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, the Scandinavian nation could use its special relationship with North Korea as a stepping stone for intermediary talks.

Sweden has a long standing diplomatic relationship with North Korea, predominantly exercised when acting on behalf of Western nationals who find themselves on the wrong side of the secretive government’s laws.

Mr Hanssen said: “Sweden has done so on numerous occasions before, especially in relation to imprisoned Americans.

“Acting as a mediator between two states on the brink of war is unquestionably a very demanding task, but Sweden has the advantage of enjoying the trust of not only Washington, but also Pyongyang.”

Sweden’s historic diplomatic relationship goes back nearly half a century, to the end of the Korean War – a legacy unmatched by any other country in the West. 

The country remains a member of the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission, which was set up to oversee the truce between the North and South – countries that are technically still at war.

As part of the commission, Sweden undertakes inspections, observes military exercises, and promotes trust between the two warring neighbours.

North Korea is deeply suspicious of the West in general, but Sweden’s neutral status allows it to have a limited relationship with the hermit kingdom.

In 1973, Sweden became the first Western European nation to establish a diplomatic relationship with the North, and in 1975, became the first to open an embassy in Pyongyang.

Sweden is also one of the largest humanitarian aid distributers to North Korea and channels funds through the United Nations, the Red Cross and other aid organisations.

The Swedish capital, Stockholm, has also hosted talks between representatives of the US and North Korea.

As these are not direct talks between the two governments, they are conducted by academics as well as current and former State Department officials.

According to a diplomat, the relationship between Sweden and North Korea remains mostly consular, and claims it has no role in finding a solution to the nuclear crisis.

However, this is disputed by an inside source with knowledge on the depths of the Swedish-North Korean relationship.

The unnamed Swedish source said: “Generally, the North Koreans are very stringent. You can’t just charge in and get what you want. You can’t make demands of them.”

“Sweden has been able to share information with the major players in the region and we are still doing that.

“We have mainly acted as a source of information and made sure that information reaches the most important actors.”



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