North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho will travel to Tajikistan between April 13 and 15, the Tajikistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs information service reported on Wednesday.
Tajikistan will represent the fifth country Ri’s delegation has visited in the past week, following stop-offs in China, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Russia since its departure from Pyongyang on April 3.
According to Tajikistani media, Ri is set to meet with his local counterpart Sirojiddin Aslov to discuss bilateral cooperation in trade, social, and humanitarian sectors.
While meeting with traditional North Korean allies China and Russia during the overseas tour, Ri’s delegation has also been actively engaging with representatives of numerous other states.
While attending a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) ministerial meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan last week, Ri also held talks with the heads of delegations from Venezuela, Iran, Cuba, Indonesia, and Togo, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The visit also saw Ri meet with Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov.
During the meeting with Mammadyarov, the DPRK foreign minister reportedly expressed an interest in engaging with the country in the energy sector, likely in relation to oil.
Ri “noted that DPRK is interested in cooperation with Azerbaijan in the field of energy, as Azerbaijan has (a) long history in exploitation and processing oil,” a press release on the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website read.
In Turkmenistan, Ri also met with his counterpart Rashid Meredov with both expressing “the need for their further intensification” of bilateral relations.
A meeting with his Russian counterpart on Tuesday also saw foreign minister Sergey Lavrov accept an invitation to Pyongyang.
Ri’s overseas tour comes amid significant diplomatic outreach by North Korea since the beginning of the year.
This has, among other things, seen North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping – his first overseas visit since assuming power in late 2011.
The apparent diplomatic campaign has also led to the tentative organization of high-level summits with the Presidents of South Korea and the U.S.
While the public focus of the high-level meetings has been centered on the potential resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue, Ri’s diplomatic and economic overtures to other states follow a year largely defined by a global push to isolate the DPRK in response to its repeated WMD-related testing.
“Although Moscow was Ri’s priority during his travels, North Korea’s top diplomat took the opportunity to continue a long tradition in North Korean foreign policy,” Anthony Rinna, a Russia analyst, wrote on NK News on Wednesday.
“As friendly great powers as China and Russia have loomed large in North Korea’s foreign affairs, Pyongyang has relied on amicable contacts with other countries to help mitigate its isolation beyond Beijing and Moscow,” he added.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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