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Finland summons North Korean ambassador to condemn missile test

Finland has criticised North Korea over its latest missile test - a day after the Defence Forces admitted they had mistakenly announced an arms deal with Pyongyang.

Ulkoministeriön rakennus.
The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs' HQ in Helsinki's Katajanokka district. Image: Derrick Frilund / Yle

The Finnish Foreign Ministry on Wednesday strongly condemned Pyongyang's latest ballistic missile test to North Korean Ambassador Kang Yong Dok.

Director General Kimmo Lähdevirta also expressed "grave concern" about the situation in the Korean peninsula and urged Pyongyang to "immediately cease" any "further provocations aggravating the situation".

A week ago, North Korea test-fired a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile that could apparently reach most of the United States.

Ambassador cites self-defence

Kang Yong Dok, 61, has been based in Stockholm since 2014. Finnish officials may have taken advantage of his arrival in Helsinki to attend the Independence Day Ball at the Presidential Palace, to which ambassadors are usually invited.

Kang Yong Dok serves as Pyongyang's diplomatic representative to all five Nordic countries as well as Latvia and Lithuania.

In April this year, Kang Yong Dok spoke at the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm, where he said that [an] "intercontinental ballistic missile we can launch anytime and anywhere determined by the supreme headquarters of the DPRK and the development of nuclear weapon and ICBM is the normal efforts of the DPRK for bolstering defence capability for self-defence to cope with danger of US military attack."

"The only way to de-escalate tensions on the Korea peninsular is to root out the US nuclear threat to DPRK and roll back US anti-DPRK policy," the ambassador added.

Addressing the UN General Assembly in September, Finnish President Sauli Niinistö called Pyongyang's nuclear programme a threat to global peace that must be stopped.

Name mix-up sows arms-deal confusion

The meeting in Helsinki followed Tuesday's revelation that the Finnish Defence Forces had erroneously announced in November the intention to buy a weapons system from North Korea.

The announcement was made on the government's official procurements website, known as HILMA. From there it was automatically translated for an announcement in an official EU journal, where the origin country was listed as North Korea.

The Finnish Defence Forces Logistics Command said this was the result of a human error – i.e. someone clicking on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) rather than the Republic of Korea (South Korea) on a list of countries. It has issued a formal correction.

In February, the FDF first said it would buy K9 Thunder 155 mm self-propelled howitzers from South Korea. The deal, worth nearly 150 million euros, was signed in November.

The newspaper Kaleva notes that such a deal with North Korea would be unlikely, as the two countries have virtually no trading relations. According to Finnish Customs, Finland has not exported anything to the hermit state in the first nine months of this year, while imports have totalled less than 200 euros.

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