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High-ranking Swiss official pays rare visit to North Korea

Von Däniken was the highest ranking Swiss official to visit North Korea in more than 20 years Keystone Archive

Franz von Däniken, the number two in the Swiss foreign ministry, has visited North Korea. He was the highest-ranking Swiss official to visit the country since diplomatic relations were established between Pyongyang and Bern in 1974.

This content was published on April 11, 2001 - 17:18

Von Däniken spent two days in North Korea as part of a tour of the region which also took him to China and Japan.

A foreign ministry official in Bern told swissinfo his discussions centred on diplomatic, humanitarian and economic aid issues.

The official said von Däniken repeated that Switzerland was prepared to host further talks, similar to those which have already taken place in Geneva, aimed at furthering the reconciliation process between North and South Korea.

Although the visit is seen as a sign of improved relations with North Korea, von Däniken made it clear that Switzerland still had no plans to open an embassy in Pyongyang.

Few details of the visit have emerged, but Swiss officials said they were "happy" with the results.

Since the 1953 armistice brought an end to the Korean war, Switzerland has played a role in ensuring that the demilitarized border zone between the North and the South is respected by both sides.

Switzerland has also been a major donor of aid to the North. Most recently it approved an SFr7 million ($4 million) shipment of Swiss beef to the famine-stricken country.

swissinfo

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