North Korea to Host China, Russia Delegations in First Post-COVID Foreign Visit

North Korea has invited Chinese and Russian delegates to join in celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, the North’s first official foreign guests since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.

The Chinese delegation will be led by Li Hongzhong, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) central policymaking committee, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

A Russian delegation led by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will visit North Korea for the 70th anniversary. KCNA said the visit would further advance the “friendly relations” between Russia and North Korea.

North Korea has been preparing huge celebrations for the anniversary, likely to be capped off by a military parade in the capital, Pyongyang, where leader Kim Jong Un could showcase his most powerful, nuclear-capable missiles designed to target rivals and the United States.

North Korea launched the Korean War, an unsuccessful attempt to conquer its southern rival. No peace treaty ending the conflict has ever been signed, and the border between the Koreas remains one of the most tense in the world.

The upcoming visit of the Russian and Chinese delegations will be the first known instance of North Korea extending invites to foreign officials since it imposed border closures in 2020 to control the spread of COVID-19. The reclusive country has kept its border closed except for trade with China.

China and Russia are known to be North Korea’s closest allies, having previously used their power in the United Nations Security Council to block a U.S.-led resolution that would have tightened sanctions on North Korea for its missile launches.

G7, EU, Others Urge China to Stop North Korea

Meanwhile, the Group of Seven (G7) major economies, the European Union, and several other U.N. members have called on the CCP to stop North Korea from evading U.N. sanctions by using its waters.

In a letter to Chinese U.N. envoy Zhang Jun on July 21, the countries raised concerns over the continuing presence of multiple oil tankers that use Chinese territorial waters in Sansha Bay “as a refuge to facilitate their trade of sanctioned petroleum products” to North Korea.

The signatories—including the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and the EU—said they were ready to provide China with satellite images that “clearly indicate these practices continued to occur within China’s jurisdiction in 2022 and have continued in 2023.”

“We encourage the Chinese government again to do more to identify and prevent these vessels from anchoring or loitering in Chinese territorial waters,” the letter says, according to Reuters.

The Chinese envoy responded by saying that China has been “strictly implementing UNSC resolutions and seriously fulfilling international obligations,” refuting the allegations made by the signatories.

The United Nations has imposed a series of sanctions against North Korea since 2006 over the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests. In 2017, the UNSC restricted North Korea’s import of refined petroleum products, setting a cap of 500,000 barrels per year.

The United States said last year that North Korea has deliberately evaded the sanctions “through elaborate black-market networks across the region and clandestine ship-to-ship transfers.”

According to a 2020 UNSC report, North Korea began “a substantial sand-export operation” to China in May 2019, “with over 100 illicit shipments of sand” originating in North Korea. These shipments involved 1 million tons of sand and were worth at least $22 million.

North Korea’s coal export also increased in 2019 despite the international ban, with 3.7 million tons of coal exported between January and August 2019, estimated to be worth $370 million, the report said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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