Summary: The European Parliament's attempt to soften North Korea's regime with a three-man mission to the capital Pyongyang appears to have failed to secure any commitments on the country's military ambitions. The delegation, led by former Belgian Prime Minister Leo Tindemans, was supposed to make a historic visit to the reclusive, isolated country, but it was given a bristling cold shoulder from the North Korean authorities.

Over the past decade, the world has been used to seeing former adversaries in the world's trouble-spots kissing and making-up in a new spirit of reconciliation. But the global entente appears to have by-passed the still staggeringly Stalinist regime in Pyongyang, where the thaw has yet to set in. For example, just this month General Officer O Kum-chol of the 1.2 million-strong North Korea army proclaimed that "Soldiers of the Korean People's Army are firmly determined to annihilate the US imperialists, Japanese reactionaries and South Korean puppets at one stroke". As recently as August, North Korea launched a rocket, part of which flew over Japan before splashing into the Pacific: for Japan it was a missile, while Pyongyang says it was a satellite carrier. Leo Tindemans (EPP, Belgium), led a delegation including British Labour MEP Glyn Ford (PES, UK) and Laurens Brinkkhorst (ELDR, NL) on December 7-12 to the Korean peninsula. The MEPs met South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Hong Sun-yong on December 12, and said North Korea revealed its intention to shoot another satellite into orbit. "We left the country with a positive impression, but without any commitment from their part", Mr Tindemans said afterwards. He said he was optimistic that the country would end its isolation once the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO) was re-launched. The EU is one of the partners in KEDO, an international consortium set up in 1994 to provide North Korea with nuclear reactors for civilian energy supply in a bid to prevent the country developing nuclear arms. Mr Tindemans said in his meetings with North Korean officials he learned how Pyongyang appreciated the EU's participation in KEDO, until recently seen as an instrument of the United...

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