Russia-North Korea Bilateral Trade Set To Resume

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DPRK is running low on staple foods and fuel

Russia and North Korea are to resume trade as soon as borders reopen between the two countries, the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang said yesterday. North Korea closed its borders in January 2020.

The Embassy stated, “An agreement was made to invigorate joint efforts for the purpose of preparing all the required preconditions for the accelerated restoration of commodity cross-flows after the borders open, particularly using the mechanisms of the intergovernmental commission on trade-economic and scientific-research cooperation.”

According to Russian customs, trade between the two countries dropped by 10.8% year-on-year to US$42.74 million in 2020. North Korea meanwhile has called on the United States to resume talks over nuclear sanctions and given a shopping list of goods it requires, including fuel. Pyongyang has also called for sanctions banning its metal exports and imports of refined fuel and other necessities to be lifted.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has said that North Korea has been distributing emergency military reserves of rice and other staples. Such reserves are usually held for wartime indicating the Covid pandemic combined with sanctions has seriously impacted national food security.

Chris Devonshire-Ellis of Dezan Shira & Associates recalls a meeting he had with a Russian businessman at the Koryo Hotel in Pyongyang. “He told me he was selling tractors to the North Korean Government, and that he was paid in cash, one million US dollars. He had a large suitcase by his side and saw me glance at it. “See those men over there?” he indicated, pointing out four large and burly gentlemen positioned around the hotel lobby. “Bodyguards. We go back to Moscow by train.”

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Russia Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm has 28 offices throughout Eurasia, including China, Russia, India, and the ASEAN nations, assisting foreign investors into the Eurasian region. Please contact Maria Kotova at russia@dezshira.com for Russian investment advisory or assistance with market intelligence, legal, tax and compliance issues throughout Asia.

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