North Korea is finding itself increasingly isolated as Russia and China have joined the United States in imposing new sanctions on the regime.
Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Monday enacting new sanctions, which were agreed on by the U.N. Security Council last month.
On Tuesday, Russian media reported that the country won’t move ahead with new joint projects between the two countries. However, existing projects in trade and economics will not be frozen, Russian media cited Far East Development Minister Alexander Galushka as saying.
Russia also condemned North Korea’s latest underground nuclear test and called on its regime to start negotiations with South Korea, something the North has refused so far.
China had already started implementing the U.N. Security Council sanctions last month. The new sanctions prohibit all sales of natural gas to North Korea and limit the amount of oil that can be sold to it. China also took additional steps and ordered Chinese banks to stop providing financing to North Korea and ordered North Korean businesses in China to shut down within 120 days.
The move came after months of pressure by President Donald Trump on Chinese leader Xi Jinping to take action on the rogue regime.
China is North Korea’s largest trading partner by far, accounting for an estimated 90 percent of all trade with North Korea. However, North Korea has been looking to Russia as an alternative to China.
According to a high level North Korean economic official who defected in 2014, the North Korean regime started looking to Russia after relations with China started to decline.
Ri Jong Ho, who spoke at the Asia Society in New York on Oct. 16, said relations between North Korea and China had been declining under China’s new leadership. Ri said that Kim Jong Un convened a meeting with high level North Koreans in 2014, after Xi visited South Korea in an apparent snub to the North, saying all economic and military ties with China should be severed.
According to Ri, Kim told the high level officials to focus all efforts on creating commerce and trading with Russia. However, this did not work out as planned, and cooperation between Russia and North Korea has been limited.
“They wanted to import crude oil from Russia … however, without money, nobody will give you anything,” Ri said.
One of the major ‘export’ products of North Korea to Russia, is it’s laborers. According to Ri, in 2014 there were around 40,000 to 50,000 North Korean laborers working abroad. This provided the communist regime with a vital access to foreign currency.
The laborers in Russia and China are reportedly working in slave-like conditions, while their wages are used to boost the North Korean regime.
President Trump is currently running a massive pressure campaign on North Korea in an attempt to get the regime to denuclearize. Trump’s administration is combining diplomatic, economic, and military options to pressure the regime.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier this week that Trump had instructed him to continue diplomatic options, while military options are also being prepared.
However, he said that the diplomatic efforts “will continue until the first bomb drops.”