UAE cuts diplomatic ties with North Korea and ends visas

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Several thousand North Korean workers reside in US-allied Gulf region, mainly working on construction sites

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un inspects plant in Pyongyang in undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (Reuters)
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Friday 13 October 2017 9:57 UTC
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The United Arab Emirates is ending the mission of North Korea's non-resident ambassador and terminating its own envoy's services in Pyongyang, its foreign ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The UAE will also stop issuing new visas or company licences to North Korean citizens, carried by state news agency WAM said.

Several thousand North Korean workers reside in the US-allied Gulf region, mainly working on construction sites.

"The measures... come within the context of (the UAE's) obligation as a responsible member of the international community to strengthen the international will and to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile programmes," the Foreign Ministry said.

US President Donald Trump had urged UN member states last month to turn up the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, using his maiden speech to the world body to address what he has said is the top global challenge.

North Korea's nuclear tests and missile launches have stirred global tensions and prompted several rounds of international sanctions at the UN Security Council.

In Washington, the US State Department welcomed the UAE's decision.

"Very happy to hear that," State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told reporters. "There are many countries that are taking those steps that we have asked [them] to take."

The UAE announcement follows similar moves by the UAE's Gulf Arab neighbours Qatar and Kuwait, which last month downgraded their ties with Pyongyang and ceased issuing new visas to North Korean citizens.

Qatar, which is hosting the 2022 World Cup, said last month it was in full compliance with all UN sanctions and that it had stopped issuing visas to North Korean nationals following the previous round of sanctions in 2015.

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"There have never been workers from North Korea working on any World Cup construction sites," Qatar's Government Communications Office said in a statement, adding some companies had employed North Koreans prior to 2015.

"Approximately 1,000 remain, but this number will decline rapidly as their employment contracts expire. Visas to North Korean nationals will not be renewed," it said.

Last week, the US lifted sanctions it had imposed on Sudan for the past 20 years after Khartoum pledged not pursuing arms deals with Pyongyang.