On Friday, North Korea countered Seoul’s claim that the recent series of embassy closures in Pyongyang signaled severe economic hardships. North Korea asserted that these closures were simply routine matters aimed at enhancing its diplomatic relationships with other nations.
Media reports and analysts suggest that North Korea is on the verge of shuttering approximately a dozen embassies, which notably include those in Spain, Hong Kong, and various African countries. This move could potentially lead to the closure of nearly a quarter of its global diplomatic operations.
A spokesperson from the North Korean foreign ministry, as confirmed on the ministry’s website, acknowledged the closure of certain missions while also mentioning the establishment of new ones.
According to a spokesperson quoted by Reuters, North Korea stated that they are conducting operations to withdraw and establish diplomatic missions in alignment with evolving global conditions and national foreign policy. The spokesperson further noted that similar measures have been implemented on multiple occasions in the past.
This week, Seoul expressed the view that these closures provide insight into North Korea’s challenging economic situation, making it increasingly challenging to sustain even basic diplomatic relations with long-standing allies.
According to Seoul’s Unification Ministry, North Korea maintains diplomatic relations with over 150 countries. However, the number of overseas missions it sustains has been decreasing since the 1990s, primarily because of financial limitations.
Experts point out that the last time North Korea reduced its diplomatic missions on such a significant scale was during the mid-to-late 1990s when the country grappled with a severe famine that resulted in the loss of hundreds of thousands, and some estimates even suggest millions, of lives.