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North Korea confirms new Chinese ambassador started post in Pyongyang

North Korea fires several cruise missiles towards Yellow Sea: Seoul military
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North Korea on Friday confirmed Beijing’s new ambassador to Pyongyang has taken up his post in the nation’s capital, after a rigid blockade maintained since the start of the pandemic.

China’s Wang Yajun is the first senior diplomat that Pyongyang’s state media confirmed has entered the country since early 2020, analysts said.

On Thursday, a high-ranking North Korean official “received credentials from Wang Yajun, Chinese ambassador to the DPRK, at the Mansudae Assembly Hall” in Pyongyang, the official Korean Central News Agency reported.

DPRK — or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — is North Korea’s official name.

Beijing is North Korea’s most important ally and economic benefactor, their relationship forged in the bloodshed of the Korean War in the 1950s.

China accounts for more than 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, according to data compiled by Seoul.

The nuclear-armed country is reeling economically after its self-imposed coronavirus blockade — while struggling to tackle food shortages — and only restarted cross-border trade with China last year.

Wang was initially appointed to his current post in 2021, but his arrival was delayed due to Pyongyang’s pandemic border restrictions.

“This can be seen as a sign that Pyongyang has effectively started re-opening its border,” Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP.

“Starting from Wang, one can expect that the North will gradually welcome envoys from Russia, then those from international organisations.”

Wang’s posting comes as Pyongyang ramps up its nuclear threats, after leader Kim Jong Un called for an “exponential” increase in weapons production.

In response, Washington, Tokyo and Seoul have intensified defence cooperation, staging joint military exercises with advanced stealth jets and high-profile US strategic assets.

Officials in Seoul and Washington have warned since early 2022 that North Korea may be preparing to conduct its seventh nuclear test.

“The arrival of Wang certainly shows Pyongyang prioritises its relationship with Beijing post-pandemic,” An Chan-il, a defector-turned-researcher who runs the World Institute for North Korea Studies, told AFP.

“Pyongyang certainly wants to do a nuclear test, but not to an extent where it would offend its biggest economic benefactor.”

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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