The United Arab Emirates on Thursday announced it had stopped issuing visas to North Korean nationals and downgraded diplomatic relations with Pyongyang, following similar moves by Kuwait and Qatar. The UAE government ended the mission of its non-resident ambassador to North Korea as well as that of Pyongyang’s non-resident ambassador to the UAE, the government-run WAM news agency said.
Abu Dhabi will also no longer grant North Korean companies authorisation to work in any of the seven emirates, WAM said. Tensions over North Korea’s weapons programme have soared in recent months, with Pyongyang launching a flurry of missiles and conducting its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month.
UN sanctions against North Korea were last month expanded to include North Korean guest workers, along with textiles and a cap on oil exports. South Korea and Japan have pressured Gulf states to stop employing North Korean workers, whose income goes towards remittances that benefit the regime in Pyongyang, according to Asian diplomatic sources.
In September, Kuwait gave the North Korean ambassador one month to leave the country and stopped issuing visas to all North Koreans. Qatar has also said it would not renew visas for North Korean labourers, with the last work permits set to expire at the end of 2018.
Between 2,000 and 2,500 North Koreans currently work in Kuwait, and another estimated 1,000 in Qatar. The UAE is home to some 1,300 North Korean workers, according to a South Korean diplomat.