North Korea shut down its embassy in Uzbekistan early this month. Embassy staff returned to North Korea late last month, while the building in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent was sold along with the official cars and other assets. The Uzbek government demanded the closure as part of international sanctions against North Korea in response to the North’s latest nuclear test in January. A diplomatic source in Uzbekistan said, “Diplomatic relations have not been severed, but North Korean diplomats were virtually evicted by the Uzbek government rather than voluntarily closing down the mission due to financial problems.” The Tashkent embassy was the North’s sole remaining diplomatic mission in Central Asia after the embassy in Kazakhstan was shut down in 1998. Uzbekistan is home to around 180,000 descendants of ethnic Koreans and has been a strategic post for North Korea by supplying it with cheap raw materials like cotton.
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