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India says it won't close embassy in North Korea

Oct. 25 (UPI) -- India said it plans to maintain its embassy in North Korea, citing a need to keep channels of communication open with the reclusive state.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said Wednesday during talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in New Delhi that embassy-level diplomatic ties will not be scrapped despite Pyongyang's provocations, Yonhap reported.

Swaraj also said trade with North Korea has declined and the embassy in Pyongyang is "very small," according to the report.

The top Indian diplomat also said she had told Tillerson of India's decision and that countries with friendly ties with the United States should stay to keep communication open with North Korea.

In April at the United Nations Security Council, Tillerson said members of the U.N. should suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea.

Pyongyang's diplomats often do more than conduct diplomacy when overseas, and are responsible for business operations that earn foreign currency for the Kim Jong Un regime.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Donald Trump declared ties have "never been stronger" following their summit in June, but India has also maintained diplomatic relations with Pyongyang since 1973.

India is North Korea's third-largest trading partner, but according to the Press Trust of India, annual trade has declined to $134.33 million in fiscal year 2016, from $198.78 million in 2015.

India has also banned all trade in weapons in March 2017, and has banned the import of North Korea seafood, lead ore and textiles.

On Wednesday, North Korea's state television stressed "internal solidarity in its programming," a sign the country is bracing itself for the impact of sanctions that will hit North Korea's energy supply, South Korean news service News 1 reported.

Nam Kwang-kyu of the Maebong Unification Research Center told News 1 the long-term effect of the current sanctions "will not be easy to overcome" for North Korea.

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