North Korea and Russia on Friday strengthened ties by signing an economic development protocol agreement with the aim of increasing annual bilateral trade to $1 billion by the year 2020.
The protocol was co-signed by the Minister for Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka and the North Korean Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam following a five day Russian delegation visit to the Rason Sonbong area.
The protocol agreement outlined mutual economic interests between the two countries that include cooperation in trade, investment, transport, energy and natural resources, employment and interregional cooperation.
Russian officials in March stated an intention to explore new markets following the introduction of sanctions by the west over Russian action in Crimea, Russian news agency RIA Novosti said on Friday.
That, one expert said, may be why Russia is currently seeking to warm ties with North Korea.
“North Korea and Russia now have something in common; they are under international sanctions. They both share anti-Americanism, contempt to international laws, and pose military threat to neighbors,” said Leonid Petrov, a North Korea researcher at the Australia National University.
The Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East also announced Friday that following the protocal, all payments between the two countries would be settled in Roubles.
“It seems perfectly logical that international pariah states should use their own currencies for bilateral trade and investment projects rather than the currency of the state they both loathe,” Petrov said..
In addition to the protocol agreement Russia also discussed trilateral trade projects with North Korea.
The Ministry for Development of the Russian Far East said that it is eager to complete a trans-Siberian railway connection to South Korea that could allow Russian gas and electricity to be delivered through North Korea.
The Russian delegation, which comprised members of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, Economic Development Ministry and individuals from Russian banking institutions and private companies, also announced their intentions to invest in the inter-Korean industrial park of Kaesong, currently only a joint venture between North and South Korea.
Minister for Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka stressed that Moscow’s economic and development goals could only be achieved in military and political stability on the Peninsula could be maintained.
A further meeting between Russa and the DPRK was scheduled to take place in Vladivostok in June.
Hamish MacDonald contributed to this report from London
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