France will open an office for cultural exchanges in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang in September, Le Monde reported Monday. France is the only member of the EU that has no diplomatic relations with the Stalinist country.
Olivier Vaysset, formerly in charge of the French Foreign Ministry's cooperation with the French intelligence service, will be the first representative in Pyongyang. The office is to open in late September.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November 2009 sent Socialist lawmaker and former culture minister Jack Lang to Pyongyang as a special envoy, and Lang later suggested Paris open a cultural liaison office there.
But the plan was delayed when inter-Korean relations became tense after the North's sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan. Japan objected to the idea, and French Foreign Ministry officials said the time was not ripe, the daily said.
The French Foreign Ministry denied that the office is a preliminary step to full diplomatic relations, but Le Monde said it would facilitate diplomacy.
Currently the permanent North Korean trade representative's office, which opened in Paris in 1984, is the only diplomatic channel between the two countries.