North Korea official says country seeks friendship, trade

Sept. 1 (UPI) — North Korea is betting it still has friends despite multiple missile provocations over the past week.

Pyongyang’s Vice Minister of External Economic Affairs Ku Bon Tae said at the 11th annual China-Northeast Asia Expo in Changchun, China, that North Korea wants to expand and develop amicable relations with “friendly nations,” South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reported Friday.

North Korea’s call for friendship comes at a time of a series of missile tests, and, according to Seoul’s national intelligence service, preparations for a possible nuclear test.

Universal condemnations of North Korea’s weapons program or new sanctions passed at the United Nations Security Council, however, were not raised as issues Friday.

“As our republic’s strategic position has reached unprecedented heights, the peace and stability of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia are being powerfully guaranteed, opening up a broader range of ways to strengthen economic ties and cooperation between Northeast Asian countries,” Ku said. “We will develop our friendly relations with other countries in the world.”

Ku said Rason, the northeastern North Korean city designated a special economic zone under Kim Jong Il, is just one example of economic exchange and cooperation.

“We have established more than 20 economic development zones throughout the country, and have supplied the [right] environment for legal and investment concerns,” Ku said.

In July, Daily NK reported foreign investors in Rason were leaving after suffering heavy losses.

Ku did not respond to remarks from an earlier speech by China’s deputy prime minister calling for denuclearization as well as dialogue.

The North Korean official told Hankyoreh he came because he was invited to the event.

North Korean firms taking part in the expo were selling cosmetics containing ginseng, pharmaceuticals and tobacco, according to the report.

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