SEOUL, March 17 (UPI) -- North Korea's trade with Russia is growing rapidly and the two countries are strengthening old ties as other relations have frayed, Yonhap reported Tuesday.
In a special issue commemorating the 66th anniversary of an economic and cultural cooperation agreement co-signed by North Korea and the Soviet Union, North Korea's state-controlled Rodong Sinmun featured the history of Russia and North Korea relations, and celebrated North Korean Workers' Party Secretary Choe Ryong Hae's meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in November.
"The bond of friendship runs deeper every day," said one article that featured photos of the two politicians shaking hands.
Yonhap reported North Korea's friendly overtures to a key ally are a strategy to move away from a paralyzing dependence on China for trade and investment.
South Korea's overseas trade agency in Moscow said on Wednesday economic exchange between Russia and North Korea has witnessed remarkable growth.
The volume of North Korean exports to Russia, while comparatively small, grew almost 32 percent in 2014 to a total of $10.2 million.
Of that number, 46 percent consisted of North Korean textiles, while the remainder included machinery, instruments and electronics. North Korea even exported about $250,000 worth of cars.
Russia, in turn, has exported $34 million worth of crude oil to North Korea, although North Korea's consumption of Russian oil declined by 8 percent in 2014.
Cho Bong-yeon, a South Korean researcher at the Industrial Bank of Korea, said trade between Moscow and Pyongyang has yet to reach the scale of North Korea's trade with China.
The New York Times reported Russia's foreign ministry designated 2015 the "Year of Friendship" with North Korea. Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, is scheduled to visit Moscow on May 9 during the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany, an event that German chancellor Angela Merkel has declined to attend.
Russia has been carrying out a pivot to Asia.
Yonhap reported the Russian minister of development for the Far East, Alexander Galushka met with North Korean foreign minister Ri Su Yong to discuss economic opportunities.