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(LEAD) N. Korean vice FM leaves for Russia

All News 23:39 January 29, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by Russian official)

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean diplomat left for Russia on Friday, the North's media reported, amid the U.N. Security Council's move to slap stronger sanctions against the North over its latest nuke test.

Vice Foreign Minister Pak Myong-guk left Pyongyang earlier in the day heading to Russia, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

The state news agency did not reveal an itinerary or other details such as the purpose of the visit to Russia.

Pak is seen as trying to seek consultations with Russia over the international community's push for a U.N. resolution to punish Pyongyang during his visit to Moscow.

Still, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a briefing in Moscow that North Korea and Russia will sign a pact during Pak's visit that ends next Wednesday.

The pact calls for, among other things, repatriations of nationals who are suspected of illegally crossing the border and do not have the proper documents.

The planned pact is apparently seen as North Korea's latest efforts to curb any possible defections of its citizens, mostly lumberjacks, in Russia.

Earlier in the day, Choi Son-hui, deputy director-general of the North Korean foreign ministry's American affairs bureau, was found to have entered China through the airport in Beijing, according to sources.
The U.N. Security Council is working on a fresh resolution for "stronger and more comprehensive" sanctions against the North over its fourth nuclear test on Jan. 6.

China and Russia, two permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, have firmly opposed the North's nuclear provocations, but they remain reserved over how strongly the Security Council should impose sanctions against Pyongyang.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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