Former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho holds a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club on 02 November, 2023. EFE-EPA/Andres Sanchez Braun

Ex-North Korean diplomat says embassy closures reflect rapprochement with China, Russia

Seoul, Nov 2 (EFE).- Former North Korean diplomat Thae Yong-ho said Thursday that the recent closures of embassies ordered by the Pyongyang regime stem from its economic crisis and its plan to pivot towards China and Russia.

North Korea recently announced the closures of its embassies in Spain, Angola and Uganda and plans to close at least a dozen more diplomatic missions in Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to media reports.

Speaking at a press conference at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Thae said that it was the first time since the 1990s that North Korea had gone through serious economic problems and the first mass closure of embassies since then.

This was a sign that the sanctions imposed on the regime were working, he added.

In fact, Thae, who was charge d’affaires at the embassy in the United Kingdom and is the highest-ranking North Korean official to defect to the South in decades, worked at the embassy in Denmark in the 1990s just before the regime closed it amid a severe famine in the country.

The former diplomat said that despite benefiting significantly from Angola and Uganda economically, North Korea was forced to shut its embassies there due to lack of funds amid tightening sanctions.

Thae, who is a lawmaker of the conservative People’s Power Party (PPP) in South Korea, said that until now Pyongyang had been betting on diplomacy, not on solid alliances.

However, he added, now it was pivoting towards China and Russia and taking advantage of the situation created by the war in Ukraine.

The lawmaker said that North Korea, which is facing both economic problems and food shortages, had turned down the food aid recently offered by Moscow to focus on asking for military aid instead.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in September in which they discussed military and aerospace exchanges.

It is believed that this meeting cemented the support extended by Pyongyang – which has apparently sent large shipments of ammunition and weapons since August to support the Russian invasion of Ukraine – to Moscow in exchange for a range of military assistance. EFE