Which Countries Have Diplomatic Relations With North Korea

North Korea may be one of the most isolated countries in the world, but it still experiences diplomatic relations with some countries around the globe. The limited diplomatic links that North Korea has are an attempt to reduce the country’s international isolation and eventually help promote a foreign policy of self-reliance. These diplomatic relations have increased in recent years, and the number of countries with diplomatic ties to North Korea is now almost double the number that had such ties a decade ago.

The most important foreign country with diplomatic ties to North Korea is China. Their long-term close and extended relationship has had a huge role in North Korea’s foreign policy for the last two decades. Beijing is invaluable for the North Korean economy in many ways, from providing aid in the forms of food, fuel, and technology; to negatively influencing and discouraging military action from other countries.

Russia too has strong ties to North Korea, with high volumes of trade and valuable assistance in the form of military and civilian resources. Pyongyang and Moscow have a joint military agreement and bilateral economic agreements, with the two countries working closely together on foreign policy, energy and economic initiatives.

In recent years, North Korea has experienced a small diplomatic “openess”, allowing many western countries to establish diplomatic relations. These countries include the United States, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom. Korea is also growing diplomatic ties with its neighbours, most notably South Korea. This diplomatic move came in during the late 2000s and, although still very limited in scope, this diplomatic presence has grown over the last decade.

North Korea does however have its own diplomatic relations, although more limited than some other countries. North Korea maintains embassies in many countries, including China, Russia, Germany and a few others. However, some of its embassies are important regional diplomatic centres – like the presence in London and the presence in the Vatican. North Korea also participates in the United Nations, which it joined in 1991, but its diplomatic presence within the UN is practically invisible.

North Korea is currently not a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), but it has expressed its interest in joining. North Korea has also shown a willingness to pursue international agreements with other countries, and has signed agreements on trade and scientific exchanges with a number of countries.

North Korea-US Relations

The US and North Korea have a long and tempestuous history. With the end of the Korean War in 1953, both sides agreed to cease fire, but the US and North Korea never created a formal peace treaty. A diplomatic relationship only formed in the year 2000, when US President Bill Clinton met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il. Since then, both countries have engaged in a series of negotiations and agreements, but progress has been slow and unpredictable.

The Obama administration was focused on furthering diplomatic relations but was met with North Korean defiance. Despite that, the US was able to broker a six-party agreement, the only formal agreement between North Korea and the US thus far. In this agreement, North Korea promised to work towards denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and reaffirmed its commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In return, the US promised economic assistance.

Yet, tensions have been steadily growing between the two nations. In recent years, North Korea has tested many ballistic missiles and carried out successful nuclear weapons tests. The Trump administration has stepped away from Obama-era diplomacy in favour of increasingly confrontational rhetoric. As a result, the political and economic sanctions imposed by the US on North Korea have only grown.

North Korea and the U.N.

North Korea is a member of the United Nations, but their diplomatic presence within the organisation has been practically non-existent. North Korea is rarely included in international discussions, as many of its demands are deemed too outrageous by the UN member countries. North Korea also violates several of the UN’s human rights conventions, and often receives criticism for its brash attitude towards the UN.

Yet, the UN’s attitude towards North Korea has started to soften. The UN recently praised their progress in nuclear disarmament, exchanging information with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA.) Moreover, the UN’s special envoy for North Korea recently met with North Korean officials in Washington D.C., hinting at a new era of mutual cooperation.

North Korean representatives have been welcomed in many international groups, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organisation. Still, most of these attempts quickly break down due to North Korean unwillingness to accept the terms and conditions of such organisations. The fact remains that North Korea is a pariah state, and will remain so until they start to adhere to international standards and regulations.

Efforts to Improve Relations with North Korea

In recent years, many states have attempted to improve diplomatic relations with North Korea. In 2014, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye proposed a new round of talks to improve inter-Korean relations. This resulted in the signing of a peace treaty and the reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint North and South Korean factory in the DMZ. Similarly, China has repeatedly attempted to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme through economic incentives.

The international community has also attempted to reach out to North Korea, including through sports diplomacy. Many countries have engaged in sporting events and activities with North Korea, such as the Asian Games and the Winter Olympics. North Korea also participated in the 2014 Asian Games and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, events which many saw as a sign of progress in the ongoing efforts to improve diplomatic relations.

In recent years, there have also been negotiations between North Korea and the US. Although progress on this front has been minimal, it has still been seen as a sign of a potential thawing of relations between the two countries. Negotiations became strained in 2018 when North Korea refused to abandon its nuclear programme. However, despite the more recent failures, peace between the two countries is still possible.


North Korea has diplomatic ties with many countries, some of the most important being China, Russia and the US. This limited global presence offers Pyongyang the opportunity to reduce its international isolation and increase its chances of survival. Although negotiations have failed in the past, many countries still strive to increase peace and understanding between North Korea and the international community. Only time will tell if these efforts will be enough to bring a lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

Leave a Comment