SEOUL, South Korea – The head of Russia’s proxy forces in eastern Ukraine Donetsk region sent a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urging cooperation amid signs the North is considering sending workers for reconstruction projects in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine.
North Korea last month became one of the few nations in the world to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, another Russian-backed separatist region in the east. Ukraineprompting Kyiv to cut diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.
There are indications that North Korea is reconsidering plans to send workers for reconstruction projects in those regions, which could help its economy but run afoul of UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic weapons program rockets.
In comments sent on Monday, Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin expressed hope that his Moscow-backed republic and North Korea can achieve “equally beneficial bilateral cooperation consistent with the interests” of their people, the official Central News Agency reported. North Korea on Wednesday.
Donetsk’s foreign ministry said its ambassador to Russia, Olga Makeeva, met with North Korea’s ambassador to Russia, Sin Hong Chol, in Moscow on July 29 to discuss economic cooperation. According to the ministry, Sin said at the time that there would be “great potential” for bilateral cooperation in trade and the “field of labor migration” after North Korea eased pandemic border controls.
North Korea is reportedly holding similar discussions with Luhansk.
In 2017, Russia supported sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in response to a North Korean long-range missile test that required member states to repatriate all North Korean workers from their territories within 24 months.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price last month criticized Russian suggestions that North Korean workers could be hired for reconstruction projects in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, saying such arrangements would be “an affront to Ukraine’s sovereignty”.
This undated photo released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 17, 2022 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he watches the test fire of a new type of tactical guided weapon in North Korea.
STR/KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Images
Price was referring to comments by Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, who told the TASS news agency that North Korean construction workers would potentially provide “very serious help” in rebuilding the Donbass region.
Pushilin’s message to Kim was timed for the Aug. 15 anniversary of the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II. He congratulated Kim on the anniversary and insisted that “the people of the Donbass region are also fighting to regain freedom and justice of history today, just as the Korean people did 77 years ago,” KCNA said.
The report did not say whether Kim sent a message to Pushilin in response.
Luhansk and Donetsk together make up the Donbas region, a predominantly Russian-speaking region of steel mills, mines and other industries in eastern Ukraine. The separatists have controlled parts of both provinces since 2014, but Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized their independence shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Syria is the only other nation that has recognized their independence.
North Korea has repeatedly blamed the US for the crisis in Ukraine, saying it was the West’s fault “hegemonic politics” justified Russian military action in Ukraine to defend itself.
Kim is also using a split in the UN Security Council, deepened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to speed up weapons development as he tries to cement the North as a nuclear power and negotiate the lifting of crippling US-led sanctions. from a position of strength.
North Korea has launched more than 30 missiles in 2022 alone, including its first flight test of an intercontinental ballistic missile in nearly five years. There are also indications that the North is rebuilding tunnels at a nuclear test site that was last active in 2017 in preparation for possible resumption of nuclear explosion tests.
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