North Korea shut down its embassies in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bangladesh, likely part of a recent series of diplomatic mission closures due to financial troubles as Pyongyang expands its weapons programs.
The North Korean Embassy in Bangladesh closed officially last week, with its diplomats leaving the country on Nov. 21, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).
A Bangladesh government official who spoke with the RFA cited economic reasons for the embassy’s closure, which had been in operation since 1974.
The North Korean diplomatic mission in India will reportedly continue the closed legation’s work.
The North’s embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo also reportedly closed, joining the list of earlier legation closings in Africa, including Uganda and Angola.
According to the report, this reduces the total number of North Korean embassies in operation worldwide from 53 to 46.
The North’s Foreign Ministry had warned earlier this month that it would close some embassies to adjust to the “changed international environment and national foreign policy.”
Some experts said continued sanctions on the North were finally taking a toll on the nation’s finances.
“The regime appears to be closing down the embassies as their foreign currency-earning businesses have largely been disrupted due to the strengthening of sanctions against North Korea,” an official from South Korea’s Unification Ministry told the JoongAng Ilbo.
“It goes to show that North Korea is in a tight space economically and that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the regime to maintain basic diplomatic ties even with countries that have traditionally been friendly with the North,” he added.
Jeong Yoo-seok, a researcher in the North Korean economy department at IBK Economic Research Institute, also cited the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions as a cause behind the embassy closures.
“If you look at the diplomatic missions that North Korea has closed, most of them are countries with traditionally friendly relations with the North but where illegal foreign currency earning activities have become virtually impossible due to the implementation of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea,” Jeong said.
The last UN Security Council resolution on the North was passed in December 2017. Countries and entities, including the United States, South Korea and the European Union, have continued to pass unilateral sanctions on the North, including on its illegal cyber activities to finance its nuclear and missile programs.
BY CHUNG YEONG-GYO,ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]