January 13, 2016 / 10:12 AM / 4 years ago

In fast U-turn, Davos forum cancels invitation to North Korea

GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea’s invitation to this month’s World Economic Forum meeting in Switzerland has been revoked, after Pyongyang carried out a fourth nuclear test in defiance of a United Nations ban.

North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong addresses the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

The World Economic Forum (WEF) said early on Wednesday that Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong would go to the resort town of Davos for the gathering of the world’s business and political elite from Jan. 20-23, but later said he was no longer welcome.

There was no immediate reaction from North Korea, which last sent a delegation to the forum in 1998.

Philipp Roesler, a member of the WEF managing board, told a Geneva news conference the forum had invited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) late last year because “there had been some convincing, encouraging signals out of the DPRK that there may be an opportunity for international global dialogue”.

“But we have all seen what has happened last week,” Roesler said, referring to the nuclear explosion.

“We decided after the nuclear test that ... there will be no opportunity for an international global dialogue in the spirit of the World Economic Forum.

“Therefore we could not maintain our invitation to DPRK.”

South Korea warned North Korea on Wednesday that the United States and its allies were working on sanctions to inflict “bone-numbing pain” after the nuclear test, and called on China to do its part to rein in its isolated neighbor.

South Korea is sending a delegation to Davos which the WEF said would be led by Choi Kyung-hwan, who stepped down as South Korea’s finance minister on Tuesday in preparation to run in parliamentary elections in April.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend, as will U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden. On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 418-2 to pass legislation that would broaden sanctions on North Korea.  

Ri spent two decades in Switzerland as ambassador and representative at the United Nations in Geneva. He acted as surrogate father to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un when Kim was a student at a Swiss school.

Global security will loom large at the Alpine forum, which will be attended by more than 2,500 people, including business leaders, finance ministers, central bankers, billionaires and celebrities like U.S. actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Irish musician Bono.

The new leaders of Argentina and Canada will be there, the WEF said. British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu are also expected.

There will be more than 250 panel discussions and workshops ranging from “The War on Water” to “The State of Artificial Intelligence”.

The over-arching theme will be “Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution” to discuss how governments, companies and people can deal with and profit from technological change.

Additional reporting by Carmel Crimmins in New York; editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Andrew Roche

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