About the Author
View more articles by Jacob Fromer
Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
North Korea’s new ambassador to India formally began his post on Thursday, an announcement from the presidential office in New Delhi said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new ambassador, Choe Hui Chol, presented his diplomatic credentials to Indian President Shri Ram Nath Kovind via video conference — the first time in India’s history that an ambassador’s credentials were delivered “through the digital medium,” the announcement said.
Choe was first appointed to the post in late March last year, but was not confirmed for nearly 15 months. It’s unclear why the formal presentation of credentials had to wait more than a year.
Choe previously served as the DPRK’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, where he reportedly was in charge of the European affairs department and diplomacy with UN Security Council members Britain and France.
His appointment to a new job in the Indian capital last year led to some speculation that the longtime diplomat had been handed something of a demotion, though Choe had previously served in a number of postings dealing with South Asia.
Choe served as director general of the DPRK foreign ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Department. He visited Iran, a close North Korean ally, in 2017.
“India’s relationship with North Korea is complex and flies under the radar often,” Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, told NK News.
Panda noted that the two countries still engage in a steady flow of trade.
“New Delhi has long been one of Pyongyang’s largest non-China trade partners,” he said.
More than 90 percent of the DPRK’s trade is with China, but a recent analysis by Voice of America (VOA) found that India’s ranking among nations did not change much in recent years, even if its overall trade volume fell.
That held true even after a wave of sanctions took effect in 2017 because of the North’s nuclear weapons and missile programs, the report said.
A recent analysis by NK News’s sister site NK Pro also found that India may be trading with North Korea even more than official figures let on: patterns hidden in customs data appeared to show goods flowing between North Korea and a range of third countries, with China as a conduit.
They included more than 890,000 kilograms of North Korean ferrosilicon — an iron alloy — sent to India via China’s Henan Province last year. Iron products are sanctioned by the UN Security Council.
Panda also told NK News that India is wary of the North’s nuclear and missile programs — among other reasons, because of their alleged connections with neighboring Pakistan.
“Beginning in the 1990s, India did begin to grow concerned about North Korea’s missile proliferation activity owing the apparent transfer of Nodong technology to Pakistan,” he said. “That remains part of India’s concerns today.”
According to a recent UN report on North Korea’s alleged sanctions violations — the annual Panel of Experts (PoE) report — North Korea may also have hacked an Indian nuclear facility and space research center last year.
“The Panel noted reports that, in September and October 2019, the Indian Space Research Organization and the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, India, received cyberattacks using DTrack malware, which was developed by the Lazarus Group,” the report said, using a widely reported name for the DPRK hacking group.
“The Panel investigated the attacks as possible violations of the provisions of the arms embargo through cybermeans,” the report continued. “Investigations continue.”
According to the Indian president’s announcement, besides Choe Hui Chol, ambassadors from six other nations — Senegal, Trinidad & Tobago, Mauritius, Australia, Cote d’Ivoire, and Rwanda — also delivered their credentials via video conference on Thursday.
“Digital technology has enabled the world to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19 and carry out its functions in an innovative manner,” President Shri Ram Nath Kovind said, according to the announcement.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
North Korea's new ambassador to India formally began his post on Thursday, an announcement from the presidential office in New Delhi said.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the new ambassador, Choe Hui Chol, presented his diplomatic credentials to Indian President Shri Ram Nath Kovind via video conference -- the first time in India's history that an ambassador's credentials were delivered "through the digital medium," the announcement said.