North Korean officials in a meeting over the weekend with a delegation of visiting Russian lawmakers reportedly expressed interest in purchasing new Russian commercial aircraft.
Speaking to Russia’s TASS News Agency in Pyongyang, State Duma delegation leader Sergey Neverov said the two sides “touched upon the issue of civil aviation and flight safety” during a meeting with North Korean foreign ministry officials.
There, “the North Korean side expressed interest in buying new Russian planes,” according to the report.
The lawmaker, who serves as Deputy Chairman of the Russian Federal Assembly’s lower house, framed the possible sale as one centered on addressing safety issues which may arise if North Korea’s state-run airline Air Koryo is not allowed to upgrade its fleet.
“We maintain air service between Pyongyang and Vladivostok and, naturally, we would like to see more advanced and safer planes serving this route,” Neverov reportedly said.
“We believe that such dialogue must be maintained as civil aviation is beyond the United Nations Security Council’s claims to Pyongyang,” he added.
But while Neverov appeared to suggest such a sale would be possible under current UN Security Council (UNSC) measures, any such transaction would likely require the easing of sanctions to go ahead legally.
In November last year, Russia’s ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora said Moscow was “now actively advocating that the DPRK be allowed to buy civilian aircraft.”
“The country is in dire need of updating its fleet, but this is impossible” due to ongoing sanctions, Matsegora said in an interview with Izvestia.
The 1718 Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts (PoE) under the UNSC has determined that Air Koryo operates under the North Korean military, and banned member states from selling various transportation vehicles, including aircraft, to North Korea under Resolution 2397 passed in December last year.
Under the provision, however, the country is still permitted to purchase “spare parts needed to maintain the safe operation of DPRK commercial civilian passenger aircraft.”
Air Koryo’s newest line of aircraft is made of Ukrainian-made Antonov-148 models purchased in 2013 – a design which first made a commercial appearance in 2009.
Neverov also told TASS that his delegation, which arrived in Pyongyang on Friday, raised in meetings over the weekend the possibility of pressing for further sanctions relief at the UNSC “at least in the humanitarian sphere to ensure supplies of medicines, food and agricultural products.”
This is due, he said, to “steps that are being taken by the North Korean leadership” to halt nuclear weapons and missile tests.
North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also reported on the visit over the weekend, saying Neverov and his delegation met chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly’s (SPA) Foreign Affairs Committee Ri Su Yong,
Ri also serves as a member of the Political Bureau and vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).
Present at another meeting — a reception held by the DPRK ruling party’s central committee — was vice department director Han Man Hyok, according to KCNA, who led a political delegation to Moscow in March focused on strengthening inter-parliamentary ties.
As part of further efforts on the inter-parliamentary front, the group reportedly extended an invitation to the North Korean side to attend the International Forum on the Development of Parliamentarism to be held in Moscow from July 1-2.
In addition, the Russian delegation on Saturday met recently-elected President of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) Choe Ryong Hae for his first meeting with a foreign delegation in this capacity, according to TASS, where the issue of relaxing sanctions was also reportedly raised.
“I think [Choe Ryong Hae] will contribute to further interaction between the leaders of our countries,” Neverov told TASS, saying Choe’s experience in the arena dates back to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s 2000 trip to Pyongyang to meet then-leader Kim Jong Il.
Neverov’s delegation comprises members of the ruling United Russia party as well as representatives of the other three main parties in the State Duma.
Those include Kazbek Taisayev representing the Communist Party, Andrey Kuzmin for the Liberal Democratic Party, and Fedot Tumusov for A Just Russia.
The group is visiting Pyongyang as part of celebrations over the 70th anniversary of the signing of agreements on economic and cultural cooperation between the DPRK and the Soviet Union, and coincided with the departure the same day of a separate group of lawmakers from Russia’s Far East Amur Region.
Neverov’s delegation is expected to depart for Moscow on Tuesday.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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