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(Yonhap Interview) Belgian envoy voices concern about impact on N. Korea from Ukraine crisis

All News 12:00 March 30, 2022

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- The top Belgian envoy in Seoul stressed the need for the international community to take stern actions against the Russian invasion, which is feared to send the wrong message to some nations, including North Korea, flexing their military muscles.

Ambassador Francois Bontemps expressed concern that such "rogue states" as North Korea may miscalculate the regional situation and seek to "seize this opportunity to show more power."

"That's why we have to stop that in Ukraine in order not to encourage others to acquire nuclear weapons and to show the force," he said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at the Belgian Embassy in Seoul on Tuesday.

Belgian Ambassador to South Korea Francois Bontemps speaks during an interview with Yonhap News Agency at the embassy in Seoul on March 29, 2022. (Yonhap)

He accused Pyongyang of having crossed "the red line" with its recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch amid news reports that the recalcitrant regime may be even preparing for what would be its seventh-known nuclear test.

The veteran diplomat called on China to do more to help stop the Russian aggression and use its influence over North Korea to deter it from taking additional provocative acts.

Having arrived here together with his Korean wife in September last year for his second stint as ambassador to Seoul, he is also placing a focus on public diplomacy to promote his country's image among Koreans and deepen understanding between the two sides.

At that time, he stated that, "With my wife, I am pleased to return, in a spirit of service, to Korea, a country we love, to broaden and deepen the partnership between our two countries."

His role and mission here this time is seen as more important, especially as many Koreans still remember shocking cases of violence involving his predecessor's wife. She came under police investigation into her alleged assaults on South Korean civilians, leading Belgium to recall Bontemps' predecessor.

Although the violent incidents made the Belgium community very "sad" and "upset" like Koreans, Bontemps believes the long friendship between the two nations remains intact. He vowed efforts to bolster their ties, especially in business, technology and academia.

The two nations signed their first Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation in 1901, and Belgium sent troops to fight in the 1950-53 Korean War, alongside the U.N. coalition forces.

"We have a solid foundation, and it's also a long standing cooperation," he pointed out. "I think there is a lot to do between Belgium and Korea, still in the framework of the European Union, to foster cooperation in innovation."


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