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Kerry Praises Kuwait for Curbing Flights From North Korea

FILE - Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in New York.
FILE - Secretary of State John Kerry speaks in New York.

Calling North Korea leader Kim Jong Un’s regime “illegal and illegitimate,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday thanked the government of Kuwait for “efforts to help counter the proliferation” of North Korea.

Kuwait has "recently taken steps to curb flights and to make sure that revenues from workers are not sustaining an illegal and illegitimate regime in North Korea,” Kerry said.

The top U.S. diplomat was meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah for the first bilateral Strategic Dialogue between the two nations.

North Korea’s state airline, Air Koryo, has been operating frequent flights between Pyongyang and Kuwait City since 2011. But according to FlightRadar24, a live flight tracker, Air Koryo has altered its route between Pyongyang and Kuwait City to include a transit stop at Urumqi, China, this August.

The reduction of Air Koryo’s landing privileges at foreign airports is among the tools of a diplomatic campaign to enforce the United Nations Security Council’s punitive resolutions against North Korea’s nuclear provocation, according to the State Department.

Kuwait’s economic relations with North Korea and Pyongyang’s exports of guest workers to work on construction projects in Kuwait City provide essential remittance revenues for Pyongyang’s struggling economy.

As one of the sources for North Korea’s economic lifeline, Kuwait is under increasing international pressure. The U.S. has raised concerns with other governments about the use of workers from North Korea in their countries, which "generates significant revenue for the government," State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Those reveneues may "enable" Pyongyang’s nuclear program, Kirby said during Friday’s briefing.

Washington has long-standing concerns “about how to curtail DPRK's nuclear ballistic-missile proliferation programs through efforts of comprehensive and sustained pressure by the international community,” Kirby added.