North Korea, Belarus deputy foreign ministers agree to strengthen ties

FILE PHOTO: The truce village of Panmunjom inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas

By Hyunsu Yim

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean officials met with a visiting Belarusian delegation and vowed deeper cooperation, as Pyongyang criticized the United States for trying to increase "lawless" sanctions pressure.

Belarus' Deputy Foreign Minister Evgeny Shestakov and his North Korean counterpart Im Chon Il discussed bilateral cooperation in the sectors of economy and culture as well as mutual support on the global stage during talks on Thursday, North Korean state media KCNA reported on Friday.

The visit is the latest in a series of diplomatic exchanges after Pyongyang lifted COVID-19 restrictions.

In a statement in another KCNA report, Kim Son Gyong, vice minister for International Organizations of the DPRK Foreign Ministry, criticized Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, over her trip this week to South Korea and Japan, labelling U.N. sanctions against North Korea as "lawless."

Russia has rejected the annual renewal of the multinational panel of experts that has over the past 15 years monitored the implementation of U.N. sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

Shestakov arrived in Pyongyang on Tuesday, KCNA reported earlier this week without elaborating.

North Korean delegations have since last month visited countries including China and Vietnam while delegations from Russia and China have visited Pyongyang.

On the southern side of border separating the two Koreas, South Korea and the United States kicked off a 15-day joint air exercise last Friday, an annual event designed to sharpen the combined readiness by the two countries' military forces.

Special operation forces of the two countries on Thursday also staged an airborne training exercise with paratroopers as part of the annual Korea Flying Training drills, South Korea's military said.

(Reporting by Hyunsu Yim; Editing by Chris Reese, Richard Chang and Ed Davies)