Winston Peters' North Korean connection

Foreign Minister Winston Peters is one of only a handful of Western leaders to have visited the insular dictatorship of North Korea.

Newshub believes he will be sent to North Korea again, this time as a liaison for the West. 

In 2007, he attempted to strike a deal with North Korea in which it would dismantle its nuclear arms in return for economic development aid. The attempt was unsuccessful.

This time as Foreign Minister, he wants to do better.

In his first press conference after the coalition Government was announced, he said he doesn't believe North Korea is "an utterly hopeless case" and said New Zealand needs more understanding of the region.

Historically, Mr Peters has favoured a careful - and peaceful - approach to North Korea. 

Mr Peters re-established a tentative relationship with North Korea in 2007, a year after ties were cut following a 2006 nuclear weapons test.

Winston Peters with Pak Ui-Chun in North Korea in 2007.
Winston Peters with Pak Ui-Chun in North Korea in 2007. Photo credit: DPR Korea

Relations between New Zealand and North Korea have barely existed since the Korean War of the 1950s. During the war, troops from New Zealand were sent to fight for the United Nations' force against North Korea.

Then in 2006, after North Korea tested a nuclear weapon, New Zealand withdrew what little contact there had been.

Mr Peters re-established that relationship in 2007. He visited the country to discuss coming to an economic deal with North Korea if it were to shut down its nuclear weapons.

North Korea held onto those nuclear arms but the talks resulted in an unexpected win for a New Zealand migratory bird.

"We did, funnily enough, get some success and ensured that 97,000 birds that transit North Korea to New Zealand - to Miranda - continue to get safe harbour because of those efforts," Mr Peters told media in October.

"It was an unusual outcome, but maybe we can shoot higher this time and might possibly be successful."

In a 2013 opinion piece for Fairfax, he argued for a careful approach to the dictatorship.

"A further series of bellicose and hostile acts from North Korea are very likely very soon. When that happens, the temptation to overreact must be resisted by cool heads on the Korean Peninsula and abroad," he warned then-Prime Minister John Key.

"A war - in which thousands, perhaps even millions, of lives would be lost - is in nobody's interest," he wrote.  


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