SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The head of Russian forces in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine has sent a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un asking for cooperation amid signs the North is considering send workers for restoration projects in the Russian-occupied regions. Ukraine.
North Korea last month became one of the few nations in the world to recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, another Russian-backed breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, prompting Kyiv to cut diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.
There are signs North Korea is reviewing plans to send workers to restoration projects in those regions, which could help its economy but run counter to UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile program. ballistic
In his comments sent Monday, Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin expressed hope that his Moscow- and North Korea-backed republic can achieve “equally beneficial bilateral cooperation that is in accordance with the interests” of their people, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said on Wednesday.
The Donetsk Foreign Ministry said its ambassador to Russia Olga Makeeva met with North Korea’s ambassador to Russia Sin Hong Chol in Moscow on July 29 to discuss economic cooperation. According to the ministry, Sin said there would be “great potential” for bilateral cooperation in trade and the “field of labor migration” following North Korea’s relaxation of pandemic border controls.
North Korea is reportedly having similar talks with Lugansk.
In 2017, Russia backed sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council in response to a North Korean long-range missile test that required member states to repatriate all North Korean workers from their territories within 24 days. months.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price last month criticized Russian suggestions that North Korean workers could be employed for restoration projects in Russian-occupied regions of Ukraine, saying such arrangements would be “a an affront to the sovereignty of Ukraine”.
Price was referring to comments by Russian ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora, who told the Tass news agency that North Korean construction workers could provide “very serious help” in rebuilding the region. from Donbass.
Pushilin’s message to Kim was timed for the August 15 anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II. He congratulated Kim on the anniversary and insisted that “the people of the Donbas region are also fighting to regain their freedom and justice from history today, just as the Korean people did 77 years ago,” KCNA said.
The report does not say whether Kim sent Pushilin a message in response.
Luhansk and Donetsk together form the Donbas region, a region of mostly Russian-speaking steel mills, mines, and other industries in eastern Ukraine. Separatists have controlled parts of both provinces since 2014, but Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized their independence shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Syria is the only other nation that has recognized its independence.
North Korea has repeatedly blamed the United States for the Ukraine crisis, saying the West’s “hegemonic policy” justifies Russian military action in Ukraine to protect itself.
Kim has also been exploiting a split in the UN Security Council that has been deepened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to accelerate his weapons development as he tries to consolidate the North as a nuclear power and negotiate the removal of crippling sanctions. led by the United States from a position of strength.
North Korea has tested more than 30 missiles in 2022 alone, including its first ICBM flight test in nearly five years. There are also signs that the North is restoring tunnels at a nuclear test site that was last active in 2017 in possible preparations to resume testing of nuclear explosives.
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