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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
A North Korean delegation departed for Vladivostok on Monday to participate in preparatory talks for an upcoming series of meetings over DPRK-Russia economic cooperation, the Russian embassy in Pyongyang reported.
Led by DPRK Vice Minister of External Economic Relations Ri Kwang Gun, the delegation will meet with counterparts in the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and other economic bodies, the report said.
According to the report, “one of the most important issues on the agenda” is to prepare for the 9th Meeting of the DPRK-Russian Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) for Cooperation in Trade, Economics, Science and Technology.
The ongoing negotiations between the two sides, it added, were being “worked out in strict accordance with our obligations under the UN Security Council decisions and resolutions.”
The delegation also includes members of the DPRK foreign ministry and Ministry of Land and Environment Protection, according to the Russian embassy report.
The 8th IGC meeting took place in Pyongyang in late March last year, where the two sides held talks over trade, visa agreements, and agreed to push ahead with plans to build a new road bridge across their shared border.
Both sides reiterated their commitment to the bridge project in a meeting in Vladivostok with Primorsky Krai Governor Oleg Kozhemyako earlier this month.
There, representatives additionally discussed the boosting of quotas for North Korean laborers in the region, as well as “the development of transport, logistics, and tourist ties.”
A series of follow-up talks from the 8th IGC meetings were also held in the past year, with discussions over expanding tourism ties held last June, and both sides coming together in Pyongyang to discuss logging industry cooperation and sign protocols within the forestry subcommittee of the IGC last October.
Prior to the 8th IGC meetings in Pyongyang last year, the 7th took place in Pyongyang in 2015, and the 6th in Vladivostok in 2014.
Throughout the last year, Russia has continued to press for sanctions relief for North Korea while attempting to maintain an outward position of reluctant compliance.
At last year’s IGC meetings in Pyongyang, for example, then-minister for the Development of the Russian Far East Alexander Galushka said that, given sanctions, one should not expect major trade expansion.
“Nevertheless, we firmly intend to promote bilateral cooperation in areas not affected by international sanctions, to take all necessary measures so that non-restrictive civil areas of our cooperation are not affected,” Galushka added.
Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov once again reiterated to reporters last Friday that his country is “in favor of sanctions against the DPRK being gradually eased as progress on the denuclearization track is achieved.”
“We believe that the DPRK has already for a year and a half assumed its obligations to refrain from nuclear and missile launches, as required by UN Security Council resolutions, and this requires an adequate response from the UN as a world organization,” the deputy minister said, adding the topic was currently being discussed in negotiations with the U.S.
The North Korean delegation in Vladivostok this week is expected to meet with the Far East development ministry’s current chief Alexander Kozlov, who was appointed co-chair of the IGC with North Korea last June.
A date and location has yet to be announced for the 9th Meeting of the DPRK-Russian Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) for Cooperation in Trade, Economics, Science and Technology.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Russian Ambassador to the DPRK Alexander Matsegora speaks with Ri Kwang Gun before the delegation left for Vladivostok Monday | Photo: Facebook of the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang