SEOUL, Oct 31 (Reuters) – North Korea is poised to close as many as a dozen embassies including those in Spain, Hong Kong, and several African countries, according to media reports and analysts, in a steps that will see almost 25 percent of Pyongyang’s missions close around the world.
North Korea’s recent closure of its diplomatic missions is a sign that the isolated country is struggling to make money abroad due to international sanctions, South Korea’s unification ministry said Tuesday.
On Monday, North Korean state media outlet KCNA said the country’s ambassadors paid “farewell” visits to Angolan and Ugandan leaders last week, and local media in the two African countries reported to close the North’s embassies there.
Angola and Uganda have established friendly relations with North Korea since the 1970s, maintaining military cooperation and providing rare sources of foreign currency such as statue building projects.
The embassy closure sets the stage for what could be “one of the biggest foreign policy changes in decades”, with implications for diplomatic engagement, humanitarian work in the isolated country , as well as the ability to generate bad profits, writes Chad O’ Carroll, founder of the North Korea-focused website NK Pro.
More than a dozen missions could close, likely because of international sanctions, a trend in Pyongyang’s global isolation and the likely weakening of North Korea’s economy, he said in a report on Wednesday.
Seoul’s unification ministry, which oversees inter-Korean affairs, said the removal reflects the impact of international sanctions aimed at curbing funding for the North’s nuclear and missile programs.
“They appear to be withdrawing because their business income in foreign currency is stumbling due to the strengthening of sanctions by the international community, which makes it difficult to maintain embassies,” the ministry said in a statement. . “This may be a sign of North Korea’s difficult economic situation, where it is difficult to maintain even a small diplomatic relationship with traditionally friendly countries.”
North Korea has formal relations with 159 countries, but has 53 diplomatic missions abroad, including three consulates and three representative offices, until it left Angola and Uganda, according to ministry.
North Korea will also close its embassy in Spain, along with its mission in Italy that oversees the neighboring country’s affairs, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The Spanish Communist Party’s letter released on the party’s website shows the North Korean embassy announcing the closure in a letter dated October 26.
The North’s embassy in Madrid has been in the spotlight after members of a group seeking to depose North Korean leader Kim Jong Un staged a break-in in 2019, in which they tied up and kidnapped staff. have never driven with computers and other devices.
Pyongyang denounced the incident as a “grave violation of sovereignty and a terrorist attack,” and accused the United States of not investigating the group thoroughly and refusing to extradite its leader.
Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Hyunsu Yim, Soo-hyang Choi, and Josh Smith; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Ed Davies
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