Europe

Irish minister's bid for North Korea peace talks

This picture taken on 4 July, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un celebrating the successful test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kim Jong-un celebrating the successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in July

An Irish government minister has said he wants to visit North Korea for peace talks with the secretive state.

John Halligan said he was awaiting a reply from the North Korean Embassy in London, and that the talks would not be in his capacity as a minister.

The minister of state for training and skills told RTÉ radio that the greatest threat to peace was the nuclear threats being issued by Kim Jong-un.

He hoped to ask the North Korean leader to engage in democracy, he added.

Image copyright RTE
Image caption John Halligan says he is waiting to hear from the North Korean Embassy in London

The independent TD (Irish MP) for Waterford said he wanted to visit the country with two fellow independent ministers, Shane Ross and Finian McGrath.

Mr Halligan said they would be "going as a group of three prominent politicians in a country highly respected around the world for its neutrality".

He told the Today with Seán O'Rourke programme he had not discussed the proposal with Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar or the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs.

"What is there to lose by attempting to talk peace with North Korea, as I have done with the Palestinians and have done with the Israelis?" Mr Halligan said.

Music and dance

He added that the visit would be an attempt to "rekindle contact through cultural groups like Comhaltas" - an organisation that promotes Irish music and dance.

Mr Halligan said Ireland had kept up diplomatic relations with North Korea when other Western countries had broken off contact.

"North Korea attended the Fleadh Cheoil (Irish national music festival) in Clonmel" he said.

The three TDs would be paying their own way for the visit and there would be no cost to the state, Mr Halligan said.

When contacted by the BBC, the Department of the Taoiseach said it was a matter for Mr Halligan.

The North Korean Embassy said it had no information on Mr Halligan's request.

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