Spain and North Korea have had diplomatic relations since 2001. So why is the North only appointing its first ambassador to Spain now?
The new DPRK Ambassador to Spain, Kim Hyok Chol, presented his credentials to King Juan Carlos – along with 16 other countries’ new ambassadors to Spain – on Wednesday at Zarzuela Palace, Spanish and international media reported. Kim will be the first North Korean ambassador to reside in Spain full-time at a DPRK embassy.
Though North Korea and Spain’s relations have included the exchange of ambassadors since they began more than a dozen years ago, North Korea has never had any permanent diplomatic mission in the Western European country. Pyongyang does not maintain diplomatic missions in every nation with which it has official relations – likely due to limited resources and a desire for greater control over its diplomats abroad – and gives certain ambassadors additional appointments as non-resident ambassador to other, nearby countries.
Until now, for instance, the DPRK ambassador to Italy has typically served as non-resident ambassador to Spain.
North Korea and Spain began discussing the opening of a DPRK embassy in Madrid in October, Spain-based online English-language paper The Local reported. Spain’s foreign ministry in November approved of North Korea setting up its embassy in the Aravaca ward in western Madrid and Pyongyang then signed a lease for the location.
It is expected that a staff of 10-15 diplomats and other officials will work there once the embassy is running at full capacity.
With the embassy’s opening, Spain has become the 12th European country in which the DPRK will have a permanent physical diplomatic presence. North Korea’s other European embassies are in Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Kim Hyok Chol previously served as DPRK ambassador to Ethiopia, non-resident ambassador to Sudan and permanent representative to the African Union. Though North Korea has not announced any replacement for these diplomatic postings in Africa, it is unlikely that Kim will simultaneously hold positions on two continents. It is also, as of yet, unknown whether Kim will receive any additional appointments as a non-resident ambassador to other countries in the region. The position of non-resident ambassador to Portugal, previously held by the DPRK ambassador to Italy, would seem a strong possibility.
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