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Russian delegation pledges to strengthen ties in North Korea visit

By AFP - Nov 19,2023 - Last updated at Nov 19,2023

This photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Thursday shows North Korean Minister of External Economic Relations Yun Jong-ho (right) and Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology Alexandr Kozlov (left) signing the protocol of the 10th meeting of the North Korea-Russia Intergovernmental Trade, Economic, and Science and Technology Cooperation Committee, in Pyongyang (AFP photo)

SEOUL — A Russian official said that Moscow wanted to “comprehensively strengthen ties” with North Korea after a two-day visit by a government delegation to Pyongyang.

Increasing military and economic cooperation between Russia and North Korea has triggered cncerns in Washington and Seoul.

The visit came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned this month that ties between Pyongyang and Moscow were “growing and dangerous”, urging the North’s ally China to restrain the nuclear-armed country.

Alexander Kozlov, Russia’s natural resources minister who led the delegation, said the two sides had discussed trade, education, sport and culture.

“Our mindset is to comprehensively strengthen ties with the DPRK,” he said in a post on social media, using the acronym of North Korea’s official name.

The Russian delegation arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday and left on Thursday, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Russian and North Korean flags fluttered at the airport in Pyongyang as high-level North Korean officials saw the delegation off, KCNA said.

Historic allies Russia and North Korea are both under international sanctions — the former for its invasion of Ukraine and the latter for its nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

Moscow has sought to boost their partnership as it searches for allies to support its invasion of Ukraine.

South Korea accuses Pyongyang of having provided over 1 million artillery rounds to Moscow and says the North appears to have received advice on military satellite technology in return.

The latest Russian visit comes after the G7’s top diplomats last week slammed the arms transfers, urging North Korea and Russia to “immediately cease all such activities”.

The two countries have ramped up cooperation following North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September.

Kim had travelled to Russia aboard a special bullet-proof train, declaring bilateral ties with Moscow were his country’s “number one priority”.

Russia’s Kozlov said Friday that Moscow and Pyongyang had agreed to conduct joint geological explorations of gold, iron and rare-earth elements, and would boost sporting and educational exchanges.

KCNA also said that a North Korean delegation headed by the country’s sports and culture minister left to attend a forum in the Russian city of Perm.

Analysts say the latest moves indicate both countries are keen to emphasise their growing alliance, despite global criticism.

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