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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
Senior Russian and North Korean diplomats met in Moscow on Monday to discuss the fate of a group of North Korean fishermen currently detained in Russia for illegal fishing in the country’s waters.
According to a statement released by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and DPRK chargé d’affaires in Moscow Jin Jong Hyop “discussed a set of measures necessary to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
Monday’s talks were ambassador Jin’s second with a senior foreign ministry official since last week’s incident, which saw 161 DPRK nationals and 13 boats taken into Russian custody after border guards observed them poaching near the Yamato Bank in Russian waters.
Members of the DPRK crew reportedly opened fire on the Russian authorities during the arrest, and four Russians and six North Koreans are said to have been injured in the clash.
One of the North Koreans involved was on Friday said to have died in custody, according to a report by the Russia-24 news network.
North Korean media is yet to comment on the latest incident, which has strained the traditionally close ties between the two countries.
But, one expert said, Monday’s muted language from the Russian MFA could be a sign that the two countries are seeking to preserve their normally close relationship.
“The tone of the reports coming from Morgulov’s meeting with the chargé d’affaires was cordial, demonstrating a desire to cooperate,” Anthony Rinna, an analyst on Russian foreign policy in East Asia for the Sino-NK research group, told NK News.
“Stemming criminal activities originating in the DPRK and affecting Russia is one of the smaller issues in bilateral relations where strong ties are wanting,” he added.
Last week’s incident was one of several in the high seas between the DPRK and Russia in recent months.
July saw North Korea detain 15 members of a Russian fishing crew, along with two South Korean nationals, on charges of illegally violating DPRK territorial waters.
The crew was later released following an intervention from the Russian embassy in Pyongyang.
North Korea the following month dispatched a delegation from its Ministry of Fisheries to Moscow to discuss fishery cooperation between the two countries, with Russia’s foreign ministry at the time urging Pyongyang take “urgent” steps to curb illegal fishing in its waters.
Despite the historically close relationship between the two nations, disputes over illegal fishing have still managed to create a wedge between the DPRK and Russia — likely due to economics, analyst Rinna said.
“Illegal fishing and poaching have a strong economic dimension to them, which is particularly acute in the Russian Far East,” he explained.
“Much, if not most of the difficulties Moscow and Pyongyang face in bilateral economic cooperation, broadly relate to the Korean security crisis (the division of Korea, sanctions, etc.). This however generally falls outside of that framework.”
Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Russian MFA
Senior Russian and North Korean diplomats met in Moscow on Monday to discuss the fate of a group of North Korean fishermen currently detained in Russia for illegal fishing in the country's waters.
According to a statement released by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and DPRK chargé d'affaires in Moscow Jin Jong Hyop “discussed a set of measures necessary to prevent similar incidents in the future."