North Korea has almost completely isolated itself
as a result of its confrontational stance. Now even its last allies
are increasingly distancing themselves. The following is a summary
the communist outpost's remaining friends:
- CHINA: The People's Republic is North Korea's most important trading partner by a long way. Not shown in the figures is substantial aid in the form of food and energy. Beijing has greater influence on Pyongyang than any other capital. Nevertheless China joined most other countries in condemning North Korea's third nuclear test explosion and backed the latest round of sanctions from the UN Security Council in clear evidence of its displeasure with the young ruler Kim Jong Un.
Beijing has played host to several rounds of the six-party talks drawing in North Korea, China, the United States, South Korea, Japan and Russia. Diplomatic concessions and economic assistance are on offer if the North ends its nuclear weapons programme. But Pyongyang allowed the talks to break down in 2009 and has since resorted to confrontation.
- IRAN: North Korea has for years been a major arms supplier to Iran. According to UN figures, North Korea has also exported missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran. In 2012 the Islamist regime agreed on even closer cooperation with the communist dictatorship. To this end, representatives of the two countries signed several cooperation agreements in the area of technology. The agreements concerned energy, the environment, agriculture and food, closer cooperation on research and student exchange programmes.
- RUSSIA: North Korea owes around 11 billion dollars in outstanding loans from Russia dating back to the Soviet era. The once close relationship has cooled markedly over recent years. In the summer of 2011 then president Dmitry Medvedev and Kim Jong Il, the strongman in Pyongyang at the time, who was already weakened by illness, attempted to breathe new life into the relationship. They announced a series of joint projects, but few went beyond declarations of intent. For example, a pipeline intended to pipe Russian natural gas to South Korea via North Korean territory has not been built.
- CUBA: North Korea and Cuba cooperate in the fields of energy, agriculture and biotechnology among others. They have maintained diplomatic links since 1960. The Cuban government responded to the death of "Comrade" Kim Jong Il in December 2011 with three days of official mourning.
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