Kuwait downgrades relations, expels N.Korea ambassador

In this photo taken on Sept 7, US President Donald Trump (centre) greets the Amir of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, as he arrives at the White House in Washington. (AP photo)

KUWAIT: Kuwait has ordered North Korea’s ambassador to leave within a month as the Gulf country downgraded diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, a North Korean diplomat in the Gulf region said on Sunday.

The measures follow a visit to Washington less than two weeks ago by Kuwait Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.

The source said Kuwait will not renew permits given to North Korean workers to re-enter the country after projects they are currently working on are completed “within one or two years”.

There are between 2,000 and 2,500 North Korean workers in Kuwait, and thousands more are believed to be working in other Gulf states.

Last month the Gulf country stopped direct flights to and from Pyongyang as well as halting entrance visas and commercial licences, state news agency KUNA reported, citing an official at the foreign ministry.

The United Nations Security Council imposed new sanctions after North Korea’s sixth and largest nuclear test this month, and the United States called on countries to sever diplomatic and financial ties with it.

The diplomat, who asked not to be named, told Reuters the ambassador, So Chang Sik, will leave following Kuwait’s decision to downgrade the North Korean diplomatic representation to charge d’affaires level.

Kuwaiti officials did not immediately respond when asked to comment.

Kuwait, where around 3,000 North Koreans live, has been hosting North Korea’s sole diplomatic mission in the Gulf region.

Kuwait’s announcement comes after US President Trump met with the Gulf state’s ruler in Washington earlier this month.

The Kuwait foreign ministry said at the time it was committed to implementing Security Council resolutions on North Korea, adding that it had stopped loans to the Asian state, banned imports and cut the numbers of its diplomats in the country.

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