French judicial sources confirmed on Tuesday that Benoit Quennedey, who worked at the upper house of the French parliament, was taken into custody was taken into custody over the "collection and delivery of information to a foreign power susceptible to harming fundamental interests of the nation ".
Quennedey is being held at the headquarters of France’s DGSI domestic intelligence agency outside Paris. Media reports say his Paris home and the home of his parents near Dijon have been searched.
Quennedey is also the president of the Franco-Korean Friendship Association (AAFC in French), which promotes closer ties with North Korea and supports the reunification of the divided Koreas, Presstv reported.
In this capacity, he has traveled several times to Pyongyang in recent years; he has also written several articles and books on the country. According to the AAFC website, a part of those trips, he met officials and academics working in the architecture and construction fields.
The Franco-Korean friendship association, formed in the late 1960s pushes for closer ties with Pyongyang and supports the reunification of North and South Korea.
In regular interviews with RT France, part of Moscow’s Russia Today network, Quennedey is also presented as an “expert in international relations” and comments on Korea and other subjects.
The US-led western countries and North Korea have been locked in a dangerous cycle of escalation for several decades.
Quennedey is not the first to be arrested by a Western country for suspect links to North Korea. Last December a man was arrested in Sydney, Australia for allegedly acting as an economic agent for the North.
Chan Han Choi, 59, was charged under the country’s 1995 Weapons of Mass Destruction (Prevention of Proliferation) Act, and accused by the police of having contact with senior North Korean officials.
The French arrest comes at a time when talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled over the lack of progress towards the Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament. North Korea has refused to move forward with negotiations until the US makes concessions, including the easing of sanctions.
The administration of US President Donald Trump is now involved in nuclear talks with North Korea, which is in possession of a full military nuclear program and an unknown number of nuclear warheads.
Despite a much-publicized summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, follow-on diplomacy now seems to have hit a wall.
He insisted that there is “no way” his country will abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons unilaterally as long as Washington sticks to sanctions against Pyongyang.