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Struggling with sanctions, North Korea to shut 25% of its embassies

North Korea to shut 25% of its embassies

SEOUL, South Korea: North Korea is planning to close almost 25 percent of its embassies around the world, including in Spain, Hong Kong, and various African countries.

This week, South Korea’s unification ministry said that the recent closures of North Korea’s diplomatic missions were a sign that it is struggling to make money overseas because of international sanctions.

On October 30, North Korean state media outlet KCNA said that last week, the country’s ambassadors paid “farewell” visits to Angolan and Ugandan leaders, and local media in both African countries reported the closures of the embassies.

Two days later, Chad O’Carroll, founder of the North Korea-focused website NK Pro, said the embassy closures could be “one of the country’s biggest foreign policy shakeups in decades,” with implications for diplomatic engagement and humanitarian work in the isolated country, as well as its ability to generate illicit revenue.

Mainly due to international sanctions, Pyongyang’s keenness to disengage globally, and the probable weakening of the North Korean economy, more than a dozen missions could close, he added.

The embassy closures highlight the impact of international sanctions to curb funding for the North’s nuclear and missile programs, said Seoul’s unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs.

In a statement, the ministry said, “They appear to be withdrawing as their foreign currency earning business has stumbled due to the international community’s strengthening of sanctions, making it difficult to maintain the embassies any longer. This can be a sign of North Korea’s difficult economic situation.”

“North Korea has formal relations with 159 countries but had 53 diplomatic missions overseas, including three consulates and three representative offices, until it pulled out of Angola and Uganda,” the ministry added.

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