North Korea has been fueling speculation about its upcoming financial collapse as Pyongyang this week authorized the closure of yet another of its embassies.
Reports emerged on Friday claiming King Jong-un approved the closure of the nation’s diplomatic offices in Nepal.
The rogue nation has so far removed its presence from at least five countries to undertake diplomatic restructuring.
In recent months, Kim Jong-un authorized the withdrawal of diplomats from Spain, Hong Kong, Angola and Uganda in addition to Nepal.
A spokesperson for the North Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement earlier this month: “We are conducting operations to withdraw and establish diplomatic missions in accordance with the changed global environment and national diplomatic policy.”
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But South Korean analysts have suggested the closure of the embassies is part of Pyongyang’s last-ditch attempts to curb costs in a rapidly deteriorating economic situation.
North Korea has reportedly been struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and a series of five major typhoons that caused major structural damage to roads, factories, and the water system.
Pyongyang has also been the subject of heavy and extensive international sanctions as a result of its hostile conduct toward neighbors – including multiple missile tests in the Sea of Japan.
The South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement: “The flurry of measures appears to show that it is no longer feasible for the North to maintain diplomatic missions as their efforts to obtain foreign currency have stumbled due to strengthened sanctions.”
North Korean diplomats who have defected to the West in recent years have alleged most embassy activities are funded by illegal and illicit money-making projects.
To address the country’s financial issues, Kim traveled to Russia in September to meet with Vladimir Putin and iron out a new military supply deal.
Seoul claimed its intelligence service had collected data showing Pyongyang has been steadily supplying Moscow with artillery shells to feed its war effort in Ukraine.
The National Intelligence Service estimated the Russian Army has so far received more than a million shells since August – and North Korea has been ramping up production to meet demands.
South Korean lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum said: “North Korea is running its munition factories to full capacity to meet demand for military supplies to Russia and even mobilising residents and civilian factories to make ammunition boxes for exports.”
Pyongyang and Moscow have both denied the allegations, with Russia citing its role in the UN Security Council to deny the country is accepting military aid from North Korea.
Russian Ambassador at Large Oleg Burmistrov said: “Russia, as a responsible member of the world community, strictly adheres to its international obligations towards Pyongyang through the UN Security Council.”
Speculation since Kim and Putin’s meeting has suggested North Korea has been seeking help from Moscow to fine-tune its space program ahead of a new satellite launch attempt.