North Korea has announced it is closing some of its foreign diplomatic missions, potentially signaling a shift in the country’s foreign policy.
Emerging update: After more than three years of lockdown, North Korea has now chosen to close some of its foreign missions in Uganda, Angola, Spain, and Hong Kong.
* The country has also indicated that more missions may be closed, with reports suggesting up to a dozen embassies might shut down.
Underlying reasons: Experts link these closures to economic difficulties from prolonged international sanctions and the pandemic-era lockdown.
* The withdrawals might also indicate a shift in North Korea’s foreign policy focus towards Beijing and Moscow.
* Shrinking foreign currency reserves have affected North Korean overseas missions which have to self-finance and send remittances back to the home country.
Impact of sanctions: The closures show the effectiveness of United Nations sanctions against North Korea.
* Countries like Uganda and Angola have stopped circumventing the sanctions and providing North Korea with financial support.
* Following the strict U.N. Security Council sanctions after North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests in 2017, both Angola and Uganda ended labor contracts with North Koreans.
Potential foreign policy shift: This downsizing of diplomatic posts could also indicate a shift in North Korea’s international strategy.
* The country may be deepening its focus on maintaining and strengthening relations with superpowers like China and Russia.
* North Korea’s trade reliance on China reached its highest level ever, at 96.7% of total trade, last year.
* Large quantities of ammunition and other military equipment are believed to be provided by North Korea to Russia for the Ukrainian conflict, potentially in exchange for economic and military support.
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