N. Korean vice foreign minister makes rare Mongolia visit

SEOUL: North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong Ho held talks in Mongolia with his counterpart, state media said on Tuesday (March 12), in a rare overseas trip by Pyongyang's diplomatic delegation.

Birthplace of Genghis Khan's massive empire, landlocked Mongolia is sandwiched between Pyongyang's key allies Russia and China -- dependent on the former for energy imports and the latter for the export of raw materials, primarily coal.

But Mongolia has sought to take a neutral line with its foreign policy, reaching for balance in its ties with powers including the United States, Japan and South Korea, while also maintaining relations with nuclear-armed North Korea.

Pak paid a courtesy visit to Mongolia's foreign minister Battsetseg Batmunkh on Sunday, before holding talks with counterpart Amartuvshin Gombosuren on Monday, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency said.

The two sides discussed "developing friendly cooperation" in accordance with the "demands of the new era and supporting each other on the international stage", it added, without elaborating.

Mongolia's foreign ministry said in a statement that the two countries planned to "intensify collaboration in education, culture, sports, agriculture, health, and humanitarian fields" while increasing "reciprocal visits at all levels."

KCNA reported Sunday that a delegation headed by Pak had departed from North Korea the day before for a visit to Mongolia, without giving further details.

Images released by Mongolia's foreign ministry showed the North Korean delegation taking notes during the meeting with Amartuvshin.

Pak's trip comes as Pyongyang draws ever closer to Moscow, with a group of Russian tourists arriving in the North last month for a four-day trip -- the first known foreign tour group since before pandemic-linked border closures in 2020.

Last year, South Korea sanctioned a Russian national over allegedly founding a North Korean front company in Mongolia to assist Pyongyang in evading sanctions to secure financing for its banned weapons programmes.

Pyongyang this year declared Seoul its "principal enemy", jettisoned agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach and threatened war over "even 0.001 mm" of territorial infringement. - AFP

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North Korea , Mongolia , Pak Myong Ho


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