Togo confirms appointment of new North Korean ambassador: KCNA

Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé last week received the credentials of a newly-appointed North Korean ambassador, the DPRK’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and theRodong Sinmun reported on Thursday.

Jon Tong Chol — who serves concurrently as the DPRK’s ambassador to Nigeria — presented his credentials to President Gnassingbé on February 12, KCNA said in a Korean-language report.

The DPRK previously operated an embassy in the Togolese capital city of Lomé until 1998, after which diplomatic relations between the two countries have been managed by its embassy in Lagos.

March last year saw KCNA report that Jon had been appointed as DPRK ambassador to Nigeria, according to a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), with the country’s President Muhammadu Buhari receiving his diplomatic credentials in September.

In his meeting with Jon last week, the Togolese President was reported to have said the DPRK had “provided a lot of support” to the country, expressing his hope that friendly relations will “develop more vigorously” in the future.

Gnassingbé also praised DPRK leader Kim Jong Un’s recent “peace-loving measures.”

In comments carried by the Togolese diplomatic corps made during the ceremony confirming his new position, Jon Tong Chol was reported to have discussed ways to “develop friendly relations and cooperation between the DPRK and Togo.”

The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), also reported that Jon conveyed greetings to Gnassingbé from North Korea’s nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, who serves as President of the Presidium of SPA.

Expressing “deep gratitude” towards Kim, the Togolese President said asked Jon to deliver his “warm greetings” to the North Korean leadership

North Korea and Togo established diplomatic relations in 1973, with Gnassingbé’s father, the late President Gnassingbé Eyadéma, visiting Pyongyang in 1974 and 1981.

But Lomé has in recent years been accused of allowing DPRK-linked vessel to use its flags to skirt international sanctions.

In its first-ever sanctions implementation report to the UN, submitted in April 2018, the Togolese government said a total of 18 DPRK-linked vessels had been deregistered in compliance with UNSC resolutions.

In an implementation report to the UN the previous month, the South Korean government also reported that it had earlier in the year seized the Togo-flagged vessel Talent Ace due to its involvement “in the transport of coal originating in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

North Korea’s sanctioned Mansudae Overseas Project (MOP) has also reported to have engaged in business activities in Togo.

Relations between the two continue to be close: in September, Togo dispatched a government delegation led by minister-level official Solitoki Esso to Pyongyang to participate in the event of celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the DPRK.

KCNA has also reported that foreign minister Ri Yong Ho met the head of a Togolese delegation on the sidelines of a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in Baku, Azerbaijan last April.

Just a month later, DPRK state media reported that the foreign ministry’s director general of the Africa, Arab and Latin American Affairs Department visited a number of African countries, including Togo, and met with senior officials.

During the visit, the DPRK delegation and local officials agreed to “closely support and cooperate with each other,” the reports added.