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Locals warned against travel to North Korea

The China Post news staff--Vice Foreign Affairs Minister Vanessa Shih yesterday advised locals against taking sightseeing trips to North Korea due to the higher risk resulting from Taiwan's lack of a representative office there.

Shih issued the advice at a joint sitting of the National Defense and Foreign Affairs committees in the Legislative Yuan.

Given that the United Nations still has sanctions against North Korea, it's not suitable for Taiwan to develop official ties with the country, Shih said. Given the absence of a representative office in North Korea, locals would be taking too great a risk by visiting the country for sightseeing purposes, she added.

The vice minister was responding to lawmaker Hsieh Kuo-liang of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), who asked Shih about what attitude Taiwanese people should take when traveling to North Korea. Hsieh noted that he had planned to visit North Korea around Christmas.

But Shih's remarks drew fire from both ruling and opposition lawmakers. Lin Yu-fang of the KMT said that when exploring diplomatic relations, the government should move to develop friendships with foreign countries as much as possible and shouldn't weigh the matter on “morality.”

Lawmaker Tsai Huang-liang of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party said that in terms of people-to-people ties, there is no need for Taiwan to vilify North Koreans.

At the legislative session, Shih also noted that — although lacking official diplomatic ties — Taiwan does grant humanitarian aid to North Korea.

Shih added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was kept informed of a North Korean official's trip to Taiwan to promote chartered flights between the countries, but didn't know his exact schedule. Shih said her ministry will review and improve the protocol for such visits in the future.

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