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By Connie Kim

 

Arirang News (29.03.2017) – http://bit.ly/2mQbBpC – North Korea and Russia are cozying up lately, as China takes a firmer stance toward the regime with its recent suspension of North Korean coal imports.

 

Earlier this month, North Korea and Russia signed a labor immigration accord, under which they agreed to send more North Korea workers to Russia.

 

At a meeting the following week, Russian officials reportedly expressed interest in long-term plans to expand the program.

 

The bilateral cooperation comes at a time when a full range of global sanctions has been imposed on the regime, even amid reports that North Korea is preparing for another nuclear test.

 

“We consider important cooperation with North Korea in all civil spheres and also in those areas that are not connected with weapons of mass destruction. That’s why sending people to work in Russia, it’s not a violation of any sanctions or any international laws because it is made within the foreign works of our bilateral agreements.”

 

Moscow has been vocal against limits in the latest UN resolution on North Koreans working overseas, with Russian officials saying sanctions must not affect North Korean peoples’ lives.

 

In fact, Moscow has the second most North Korean workers after Beijing, with as many as 50-thousand North Koreans believed to be working in Russia.

 

The U.S. State Department has raised concerns about North Korea’s export of labor, saying it generates a significant amount of revenue for the North Korean government and facilitates the development of the North’s illicit nuclear and missile programs.

 

Some experts say that Moscow’s real intent lies in defying Washington’s military buildup in the Asia Pacific region, while others say Moscow is interested in developing the eastern part of Russia using cheap labor.

 

But one thing the experts agree on is that North Korea is hoping to build its ties with Russia.

 

In a report last month, the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency listed Russia first among the countries friendly to the regime.

 

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