A North Korean delegation led by Vice -Minister of Foreign Affairs Sin Hong Chol visited the west African country of Mauritania in April, according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Monday.
The visit is the second reported stop since the delegation departed on April 21, with KCNA last month vaguely describing the diplomatic tour’s destination as “some Arabian countries”.
“The Foreign Ministry delegation on a visit to Mauritania, paid a courtesy call on Isselkou Ould Ahmed Izid Bih, minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mauritania, on April 27,” the KCNA article read.
The article added the minister “expressed the will to further strengthen in mutual interests the cooperation and coordination between the two countries”.
The Mauritian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation also published a photo of the meeting on its website, adding the two sides discussed issues of common interest.
North Korea and Mauritania established relations in 1964 and then ruler – President Moktar Ould Daddah – conducted a state visit to Pyongyang in 1967, with Kim Il Sung doing the same in 1975.
However shortly after Kim’s visit, North Korea’s relations with Mauritania soured due to the DPRK’s recognition of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic. Kim’s 1975 visit was referred to in the KCNA article published on Monday.
Immediately prior to visiting Mauritania, Sin and his delegation were in neighboring Algeria where they met officials from a variety of different government departments to discuss the intent to maintain and develop ties as well as expand economic relations.
Both Algeria and Mauritania are also members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and have historical, if not fractious, diplomatic relations with the DPRK.
“Pyongyang does not seem to be using these visits to NAM countries merely to improve bilateral relations. Rather, it seems to be implementing a long-term strategy of appealing to the group as a whole for solidarity,” Tristan Webb, an analyst at NK Pro, said on Tuesday.
Webb added that there were two main reasons for this strategy.
“The first is to seek empathy for standing up to the U.S. and China; the second is to emphasize aspects of international law which are touchstones for NAM such as the principle of sovereign equality and the use of sanctions by the Security Council,” he said.
The delegation visit corresponds with to a period of high tensions on the peninsula and added diplomatic pressure at the United Nations.
Since early 2016, the UN Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously adopted two resolutions that greatly expand sanctions against the DPRK for its continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson – called for added diplomatic measures against North Korea at a debate in the UNSC.
During the debate, which lasted over two hours, Tillerson called for countries suspend or downgrade their diplomatic relationships with North Korea.
“In light of North Korea’s recent actions normal relations with the DPRK are simply not acceptable,” Tillerson said.
Amid such pressure, North Korea may be looking to expand partnerships as a potential counterpoint as part of an ongoing strategy.
“If the strategy is successful, the DPRK can expect more resistance in the UN General Assembly to the few calls for suspension or revocation of its UN membership,” he said.
In light of continued nuclear and ballistic missile tests, South Korea said it 2016 that the North’s membership at the UN should be reconsidered.
Webb also added that the DPRK strategy could garner them “more resistance to potential US-led military action, and perhaps a few more abstentions in the Human Rights Council or by non-permanent members of the Security Council on resolutions against the DPRK.”
Bilateral trade between North Korea and Mauritania amounted to 16.8 million U.S. dollars between 2000 and 2015, with the majority of that figure (14. million U.S. dollars) represented by North Korean exports.
The vast majority of those exports were in “Inorganic chemicals, precious metal compound, isotopes” and “Vehicles other than railway, tramway” vehicles.
North Korean trade statistics however can often be confused with its southern neighbor by countries will lax reporting practices.
Join the influential community of members who rely on NK News original news and in-depth reporting.
Subscribe to read the remaining 677 words of this article.
Featured Image: Nouakchott Donkey Cart by Mark Fischer on 2015-01-01 00:00:00