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North Korean Diplomat Travels to Russia

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FILE - Choe Ryong Hae (C), director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA) of North Korea.

FILE - Choe Ryong Hae (C), director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army (KPA) of North Korea.

A North Korean special envoy left Pyongyang Monday for a week-long trip to Russia to discuss ways to improve trade and political ties.

The trip by Choe Ryong Hae, a high-ranking member of the ruling Workers' Party, is the latest in a series of diplomatic moves by the isolated country as it fends off accusations of crimes against humanity.

The special envoy was seen off at Pyongyang International Airport on Monday by North Korean officials and Russian ambassador to North Korea Alexandr Timonin.

Choe, a member of the Politburo Presidium and Secretariat of the Workers' Party of Korea and widely seen as a close confidant of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will visit Moscow and the far eastern cities of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok before ending his trip November 24, according to a statement by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

North Korean diplomats have been on a vigorous campaign in recent months to counter a U.N. resolution urging the country's referral to the International Criminal Court, a move which it has dismissed as part of a U.S.-led plot to destroy its political system.

North Korea is already under U.N. sanctions for repeated nuclear tests and missile launches. Russia, along with the two Koreas, China, the United States and Japan, were participants in years of so-called six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program which came to nothing.

There has been increased diplomatic activity between Russia and North Korea in recent months.

Russia shares a short, remote land border with North Korea and has in recent years completed the refurbishment of a railway line and seaport in the northeast of North Korea.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said last week that Moscow hopes to discuss trade and economic ties, contentious situations in the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia, and other matters of mutual interest.

Choe met Chinese President Xi Jinping last year as an official envoy of Kim Jong Un, and made a surprise trip to South Korea in October as part of a high-level delegation to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games.

Material for this report came from Reuters.

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