Russia’s Ministry for the Development of the Far East has announced that Minister Alexander Galushka will pay an official visit to North Korea in mid-March.
During the trip, Galushka will meet with the DPRK’s foreign trade minister Ry Ryong Nam. The two officials are expected to discuss “further promoting their trade and economic cooperation and creating new opportunities for the implementation of joint projects,” the ministry said in a press release translated by Interfax News Agency.
Galushka also co-chairs the intergovernmental commission for trade, business, scientific and technological cooperation between Russia and North Korea.
Interfax also reported that the Amur region, located nearby the DPRK, will very likely sign a trade and co-operation agreement with North Korea, either during Galushka’s visit or in early April. No details of the deal have yet been released, but according to North Korea researcher Leonid Petrov the agreement will probably involve the exchange of labor and expertise.
“The underpopulated Russian province will receive cheap North Korean labor, the skilled Russian workers and sailors will benefit from the Russian-sponsored developments projects in North Korea,” Petrov told NK News.
News of the visit comes just two weeks after Moscow confirmed that it would forgive 90 percent of the 11$ billion debt that North Korea has slowly built up since the fall of the Soviet Union. The remaining balance of $1 billion would not be paid back to Russia’s treasury, but instead reinvested in North Korean based health, energy and development projects in a 20 year ‘debt for aid’ scheme.
“It’s almost Christmas time for North Korea. Russia is writing-off the North Korea’s debt and pledges to invest another billion dollars into the North Korean economy. [Then] Minister Galushko, goes to Pyongyang to play the role of Santa Claus with a big bag of presents.” Petrov added.
Despite President Putin signing a decree last year implementing UN sanctions against the DPRK, the two countries have strengthened their ties in recent years.
In September 2013, Russia and North Korea completed a the joint reconstruction project, linking Hasan in Russia with the DPRK’s port city of Rajin by rail, whilst numerous Russian companies have expressed interest in DPRK linked infrastructure projects.
Picture: Flickr Creative Commons by Contando Estrela
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