As China responds to President Trump’s call to pressure North Korea to curb its rogue weapons programs, Russia has stepped in to help the hermit nation stay connected to the rest of the world.
Trade between Russia and North Korea increased by 73% during the first two months of 2017 compared to the same period the year before, boosted mostly by increased coal deliveries from Russia, according to Russian state-owned news site Sputnik.
China, North Korea’s chief political and economic benefactor, said it had curbed coal deliveries to North Korea and taken other steps aimed at persuading North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to halt his nuclear and ballistic missile development programs.
Other moves by Russia to expand commerce with North Korea include:
- A Russian company, Investstroytrest, opened a new ferry line in May connecting the Russian port city of Vladivostok to the North Korean city of Rajin.
- Russian railway officials in January visited North Korea to discuss upgrades to the Rajin-Hasan railway, which links Russia to the Korean peninsula.
- Russia and North Korea have reached a labor immigration agreement to expand a program that already employs 40,000 North Korean laborers in Russia’s timber and construction industries, a major source of foreign currency for Kim Jong Un’s government.
These moves come despite Russia’s signing onto recent sanctions by the United Nations Security Council, which call for reducing trade with North Korea.