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N. Korea gets closer to Russia to reduce dependency on China

N. Korea gets closer to Russia to reduce dependency on China

Posted May. 14, 2014 00:34,   


Last year, Russia provided North Korea with its oil, which was a 60 percent increase from the previous year. This took place at a time when the international community step up sanctions on North Korea in the wake of its third nuclear test. Analysts say that the Kim Jong Un regime is trying to get closer to Russia to reduce the country`s dependence on China.

According to the Federal Customs Service of Russia and KOTRA (Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency) Moscow office on Tuesday, Russia exported 36.89 million U.S. dollar-worth oil to North Korea last year. This is a 58.5 percent increase from 23.28 million dollars in 2012. As a result, Russia’s oil exports to North Korea are now similar to those before its second nuclear test on May 25, 2009 (41.61 million dollars in 2008).

Although Moscow decreased oil exports to North Korea by 56.7 percent year on year in 2007 following the North`s first nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006, it recovered them back in 2009. While the oil export volume significantly decreased in 2012, Moscow increased it again last year when Pyongyang conducted its third nuclear test.

With Russia’s increased oil exports to North Korea, its total export volume to North Korea of last year jumped 48.6 percent year-on-year. Meanwhile, North Korea’s exports to Russia shrank by 29.9 percent from 11 million dollars to 7.71 million dollars over the same period.

Whereas North Korea increased its exports to China by 17.2 percent, which accounts for around 90 percent of its foreign trade, its imports from China increased only by 5.4 percent. This shows a change in North Korea’s trade with China and Russia, its biggest and second biggest trading partners, respectively. A North Korea source in Beijing said, “Pyongyang seems to diversify its import locations. It is noteworthy that the country tries to strengthen the relationship with Russia, in particular.”

Many analysts say that Pyongyang is looking to Moscow since Beijing is increasing pressure on Pyongyang by prioritizing denuclearization in its policy on the Korean Peninsula. It can be interpreted that North Korea seems to go back to the policy of dealing Russia and China equally.

Russia is also paying attention to North Korea as a foothold in the Asia Pacific region, which would allow the North to keep Japan and China in check and realize its “Look East Policy.” Russia’s recent write-off of 10 billion-dollar debt owed by North Korea and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev’s visit to Pyongyang seem to be part of these efforts. Another evidence is that the North`s only international route is open to a diesel ship shuttling between Russia and Najin Port of North Korea, and the two countries are initiating a railroad project between the North Korean port and Russian town of Khasan.

However, many observers say that Pyongyang cannot get closer to Russia than to China, which is the regime’s economic lifeline. Other sources say, "Chinese regions bordering North Korea such as Liaoning Province and Jilin Province have large trade volume and industrial bases, but Russia’s Far East does not. Nonetheless, Pyongyang tries to strengthen ties with Moscow to keep China in check.”