Sweden often acts as an intermediary in negotiations between North Korea and Western countries, and has been especially active in improving the ties of North Korea and the United States.
Sweden is also one of the biggest providers of international aid to the “hermit kingdom”, providing about Aus $6.1 million (US$4.3 million) every year.
Back in 1975, Sweden was the first Western country to establish an embassy in North Korea, with the prospect of trade being one of the biggest influencers for these initial ties; Swedish companies such as Volvo, Atlas Copco and Kockums were keen to begin exporting to the Asian country. The export strategy didn’t play out — the 1,000 Volvos that North Korea ordered several decades ago have never been paid for — but it did open diplomatic relations.
Until 2001, when Germany joined this exclusive club, Sweden was the only Western embassy in North Korea, and it is still only one of 25 in the country. Over the years, Sweden has garnered a reputation as a neutral player and its embassy and diplomats have played a crucial role in helping other countries retrieve their citizens from the clutches of North Korea.
The Swedish embassy still represents Australia, Canada, and other Nordic countries, as well as the United States.
The friendly relations between Sweden and North Korea has been demonstrated multiple times, since then-Swedish-Prime Minister Göran Persson visited North Korea in 2001 — the first western leader to do so — for talks on increasing diplomatic ties.
In 2018, that visit was reciprocated when North Korea’s deputy foreign minister visited Sweden to discuss the country’s summit with the US later that year. There were talks for some time that Sweden would host the historic Trump-Kim summit, which was later held in Singapore.
[Australian Broadcasting Corporation]