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Diplomat believes sanctions against North Korea affect Moscow-Pyongyang cooperation

February 10, 15:16 UTC+3

A Russian diplomat says in 2016, "we once again saw that it was impossible to separate bilateral relations from the military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula"

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© AP Photo/Wong Maye-E

PYONGYANG, February 10. /TASS/. Steps taken by the United Nations Security Council against North Korea as well as Russia’s participation in the nuclear and missile restrictions imposed on the country, affect civil cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora said in an interview with TASS.

He added that in 2016, "we once again saw that it was impossible to separate bilateral relations from the military and political situation on the Korean Peninsula."

Every time tensions grow following nuclear or missile tests conducted by North Korea, "their negative effect on our relations becomes obvious," the ambassador said. According to Matsegora, it is impossible to draw up long-term plans "if even our Korean friends say that a war is looming as an armed conflict can break out any time."

"We continue a mutually respectful and maximally sincere dialog with the North Korean authorities on the acutest problems," stressing that "with all the importance of the US-North Korea contact, the settlement of the nuclear and other problems of the Korean peninsula is possible only in the context of forming a reliable system of maintaining peace and security in North-East Asia," the diplomat said.

In Matsegora’s opinion, "this means that all the region’s countries should work jointly on creating such a mechanism and, therefore, on elaborating a formula of settling the Korean peninsula’s nuclear problem," he said.

He also said that "the UN Security Council’s restrictions imposed on the banking industry have had very serious consequences as direct transactions with North Korea are almost impossible now."

As a result, in the ambassador’s words, the exchange of delegations has been stalled, the number of Russian businessmen coming to the country has significantly dropped, bilateral trade has decreased, several joint investment projects have been frozen."

According to him, the Security Council Sanctions Committee, monitoring countries for the implementation of the UN SC resolutions, "did not express any complaints concerning Russia in its final expert report, which clearly indicates that Russia has been fulfilling its obligations."

At the same time, the Russian diplomat added that "we have been following the spirit and letter of the Security Council’s decisions saying that these restrictions, no matter how severe they are, should not affect North Korea’s social and economic situation and the people’s living conditions."

In this connection, "we do not recognize any additional sanctions against Pyongyang that some countries have been introducing unilaterally, therefore we do not take them into consideration," Matsegora stressed.

Also, "as Pyongyang has lately found new confirmations of this, Washington’s approaches may change principally with each new US administration and the approaches of the US allies are subsequently ‘readjusted’ accordingly," the Russian diplomat said.

That is why, "it is hardly possible to expect that the agreements in the isolated US-North Korean format can solve once and for ever the peninsula’s problems and rule out the recurrence of tension."

"A solution should be worked out jointly by all the states of North-East Asia and they should reliably guarantee its fulfillment," he said.

"The most important role in this should a priori belong to Russia and China - how is it possible without these largest powers to agree on security issues in the region directly adjacent to their borders?" Matsegora said.

"There are multiple problems. The country has never fully recovered from the severance of economic, technological, cooperative and other ties with the Soviet Union, which used to be its key partner. However, it has been able to prove its viability, even though it had to pay dearly for that in many ways," he said.

The ambassador expressed confidence that "those experts and politicians in the South and in the West who predicted a speedy demise of the North Korean statehood and count on that are grossly mistaken." "Of course, North Korea is a very peculiar but quite stable mechanism of government vaccinated against many diseases of the modern world," he emphasized.

"Attempts to build one’s strategy on hopes of its imminent demise are not only divorced from reality but are also very dangerous. It is necessary to talk and come to terms with Pyongyang realizing that all of us will have to deal with this partner in both the short-term and the long-term perspective," Matsegora said.

Maintaining contacts

However, the ambassador went on to say, Russia’s Foreign Ministry as well as the embassy "are trying their best to maintain contacts with North Korea in various fields." "We have succeeded in many ways, despite a rather complex situation."

According to Matsegora, all the previously established communications channels continue to operate, high-level political dialogue goes on, the two countries’ foreign ministries exchange views on pressing issues, the Rajin project has been developing - over 1,700,000 tons of coal was processed at the Rajin port in the past year.

Major events

As far as cultural, scientific and education cooperation is concerned, a number of important events have taken place, the Russian ambassador noted. He mentioned that Russian art groups took part in the April Spring Art Festival in Pyongyang, Russian movies were screened during the Pyongyang International Film Festival, some leading Russian experts took part in celebrations dedicated to the 70th anniversary of the Kim Il-sung University.

The Russian ambassador also said that a nationwide Russian language competition for schools, arranged on the embassy’s initiative, had proved a success. "We have big plans for 2017 and hope that nothing stops us from implementing them," Matsegora said.

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