Kuwait will expel the North Korean ambassador as the US and Asian nations stepped up pressure on their allies to sever ties with the isolated state in wake of its recent nuclear test and missile launch over Japan.
A Gulf-based official confirmed on Sunday that Kuwait would be expelling the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports. A letter Kuwait sent in August to the United Nations also made that pledge.
Kuwait's Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Kuwait’s move will potentially limit Pyongyang's ability to earn money for its nuclear program from laborers it sends to the Gulf.
Four diplomats will also be asked to leave the oil-rich state along with Ambassador So Chang Sik. That will leave four diplomats at the embassy. The embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
North Korea's Embassy in Kuwait City serves as its only diplomatic outpost in the Gulf. Pyongyang has thousands of laborers working in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Kuwait's ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, traveled to Washington and met with US President Donald Trump this month. In a statement, the US Embassy in Kuwait City called Kuwait "a key regional partner on (North Korea) and many other issues."
"Kuwait has taken positive steps in regards to implementing UN resolutions related to" Pyongyang, it said.
While a small market compared to China and Russia, the amount of money North Korean laborers in the Gulf kick back to the government helps Pyongyang evade international sanctions, authorities say.
A 2015 UN report suggested that the more than 50,000 North Koreans working overseas earned Pyongyang between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. Other estimates put earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Earlier, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Trump agreed to exert stronger pressure through sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests, South Korea’s presidential office said following a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday.
“The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation, and exert stronger and practical sanctions on North Korea so that it realizes provocative actions leads to further diplomatic isolation and economic pressure,” Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a televised briefing.
The Blue House said Moon and Trump had strongly condemned the latest missile launch by North Korea, and agreed that the two nations would work with the international community to implement the latest UN Security Council’s resolution 2375, Park said.