Thai foreign minister says North Korea woos its businesses

AP News
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Posted: Aug 10, 2015 1:11 PM
Thai foreign minister says North Korea woos its businesses

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's foreign minister said Monday his North Korean counterpart has invited Thai businesses to invest in his country because Thais are trustworthy and don't interfere with matters that don't involve them.

Thai Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said visiting North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong told him in a meeting Monday that Thai businesses are invited to invest in a special economic zone in North Korea that will open soon, and would be given incentives and privileges. Ri did not speak to the media.

A subsidiary of Thai telecommunications company Loxley has been a major investor in North Korea for more than a decade and helped it modernize its communications infrastructure.

Tanasak said Ri told him that the reason they wanted Thai investors is because "Thais are good people, trustworthy," and don't get involved with matters that don't concern them. The statement suggests that Ri believes that military-ruled Thailand would prioritize business ties and not be inclined to criticize North Korea's politics or human rights record, which is generally ranked by rights advocates as one of the worst in the world.

"They are not open to inviting just any country, but they are keen on inviting us," Tanasak said.

A statement issued by Thailand's Foreign Ministry said the two sides "discussed issues of bilateral cooperation, including exchange of visits at all levels, cultural exchange and technical cooperation, particularly issues of interest to (North Korea), namely, food security, agriculture and public health, ICT and tourism."

It said that two-way trade totaled $126.33 million in 2014, with Thai exports to North Korea including rubber, chemicals and plastics, and Thai imports comprising mainly chemicals, iron and steel, and electrical machinery.

The statement said Ri visited one of Thailand's many industrial estates to learn how it is managed, and also was briefed about agribusiness at Thai food producing and distribution giant Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Co. Ltd.

Tanasak told reporters that they also discussed the case of a Thai woman who was reportedly abducted and taken to North Korea by its secret agents in 1978, and that Ri agreed his government would look into the matter. North Korea has admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s to train spies in Japanese language and culture, and Japan believes many more may have been abducted.

Tanasak said expectations of solving the Thai woman's disappearance were slim because it happened so long ago.