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North Korea-Russia ties improve as North Korea-China ties deteriorate Updated: 2014-05-04 18:47:17 KST

North Korea-Russia ties improve as North Korea-China ties deteriorate
Amid heightened tensions between North Korea and its closest ally China, ties between Pyongyang and Moscow appear to be improving.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev and North Korea's Foreign Trade minister struck an agreement on trade and economic cooperation last week during a three-day visit to Pyongyang by the Russian diplomat.

"During the meeting, North Korea and Russia exchanged views on how the two countries could strengthen economic cooperation."

Moscow also gave the isolated nation an unspecified number of fire engines, calling it a warm gesture.

The Russian parliament agreed to write off almost 10-billion U.S. dollars of the debt North Korea has owed to Moscow since the Cold War era.
Experts say the two countries could benefit from new projects in the North, with the secluded state potentially using the money to invest in a proposed Russian gas pipeline and railway into the South, and Russia expanding its influence to Asia.

At the same time, relations between North Korea and China appear to have hit a low point.
Trade between two countries dropped by more than two-percent to about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in the first quarter of this year.
China had zero oil exports to the isolated nation in the period from January to March, a significant drop from the 170-million U.S. dollars in the same period last year.
And Beijing lashed out at Pyongyang last month, warning the isolated nation to refrain from pursuing its nuclear ambition.

"It seems like North Korea is diversifying its strategy for economic development by moving away from an overdependence on China and toward great cooperation with Russia, which also puts pressure on its neighbor."

However, as Beijing takes up almost 90-percent of Pyongyang's foreign trade, the success of North Korea's new strategy remains to be seen.
Connie Kim, Arirang News.
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