High-level North Korea agriculture delegation visits Russia, KCNA reports

High-level North Korea agriculture delegation visits Russia, KCNA reports


Ties between the two countries strengthened following Kim’s visit to Russia

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SEOUL (Reuters) - A North Korean delegation led by a high-ranking agricultural official is visiting Russia, the North's official KCNA news agency said on Sunday, in the latest exchange by Moscow and Pyongyang, which is grappling with chronic food shortages.

Vice premier of the cabinet Ri Chol Man left for Russia on Saturday leading an Agricultural Commission delegation, KCNA said. The Russian ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora said in a Facebook post Ri's schedule will be "very heavy."

Ties between the two countries have strengthened dramatically following North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's visit to Russia's far east in September and a summit with President Vladimir Putin.

At a major policy-setting meeting of the ruling Workers' Party in December, Kim devoted a considerable portion of his remarks on the need to boost agricultural productivity, calling for modernisation of farm equipment and improved irrigation system.

While he touted success in efforts to improve farm production, North Korea has long grappled with food shortages, in part due to prolonged UN sanctions over its weapons programmes and seasonal natural disasters.

Ri, who is considered a career technocrat in the agricultural field according to the South Korean government database, was promoted to chairman of the Agricultural Commission at the Workers' Party meeting.

The two countries have exchanged a number of delegations since their leaders' meeting in September and the frequency has increased in recent months, according to North Korean state media.

US and South Korean officials have expressed concern that the centrepiece of closer cooperation is military, accusing the North of shipping weapons to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.

Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusations even though their leaders have vowed to deepen military cooperation.