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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
North Korean and Russian officials this week expressed mutual support for logging industry cooperation and hopes for the lifting of UN sanctions, according to a statement released Thursday by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the country’s embassy in Pyongyang.
A delegation of the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade, including business leaders, traveled to Pyongyang earlier in the week for “negotiations within the framework of the Sub-Committee on the Forest Industry,” it added.
Regarding UN sanctions on North Korean labor, the statement also said both sides “expressed hope of achieving the weakening and, ultimately, lifting of restrictions” on sending North Koreans to Russia to work in the logging industry.
DPRK state outlet Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also referred to the meeting in a Wednesday report, saying a “protocol of the 24th meeting of the Forestry Sub-Committee of the DPRK-Russia Intergovernmental Committee for Cooperation in Trade, Economy, Science and Technology” was signed on October 9.
The Russian foreign ministry said the protocol covered the committee’s work over the past year and “outlined the tasks for the forthcoming period.”
It also claimed the country has been complying with UN Security Council Resolutions, sending home over half of the North Koreans who were working in the far east Amur region around the time new UN restrictions were put in place.
Resolution 2397, passed at the end of last year, rules that member states must expel all North Korean workers from their territory by December 22, 2019, adding to previous resolutions banning the signing of new contracts or extension of existing ones.
Referring to close cooperation in the industry over many decades, Thursday’s statement said 20,000 North Koreans worked in logging in Russia’s Far East during Soviet times, and said both sides “reaffirmed their mutual interest in continuing the traditional Russian-Korean cooperation in this field.”
An image posted Thursday by KCNA showed the heads of the forestry sub-committee for Russia and North Korea, Anatoliy Arteyev and Kim Kyong Gang, shaking hands after signing the new protocol.
Arteyev serves as head of the Department of Timber, Pulp and Paper, and Woodworking Industry for the Russian Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The Russian statement also said that business leaders “participating in the work of the Sub-Committee” had traveled to Pyongyang on occasion of the meetings.
The business persons were reported to have shared with the embassy “their plans and hopes for the speedy recovery of the volumes of the forest cooperation which had proved effective and mutually beneficial between the DPRK and Russia.”
It also comes as the two countries seek to maintain close business ties, with a new North Korean trade office set to be established in Russia’s Far East region following meetings during the recent Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: KCNA