Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Russia says plans are underway to repatriate all North Korean laborers by the end of 2019, according to local news agencies.
Ria Novosti reported this week Minister of Labor and Social Protection Maxim Topilin told reporters the decision to repatriate North Korean workers complies with international rules, and is in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Russian officials rarely address the issue of North Korean laborers sent abroad to earn foreign currency for the Kim Jong Un regime. In November, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora had said a population of 34,000 North Korean workers in Russia had declined to about 11,000, as Russia complies with sanctions.
In December 2017, the Security Council adopted Resolution 2397, following North Korea's launch of the Hwasong-15, an intercontinental ballistic missile. The resolution tightened North Korea sanctions, including the ability of North Korean citizens to work abroad.
Defectors have said North Korean laborers work in harsh conditions in Russia as lumberjacks and construction workers who endure subzero temperatures. They are required to submit nearly all their wages to the North Korean leadership.
The human rights of North Korean laborers have not changed since historic summits took place in 2018, defectors have said.
The United States may be prioritizing North Korea denuclearization ahead of a planned second summit between President Donald Trump and Kim.
Yonhap reported Thursday U.S. special envoy on North Korea Stephen Biegun is to return from Pyongyang on Friday, and will be briefing officials in Seoul.
Kyodo News reported Kenji Kanasugi, director general of Asia and Oceania affairs at Japan's foreign ministry, is expected to travel to Seoul to meet with Biegun and South Korean diplomat Lee Do-hoon.
Trump is to meet with Kim in Vietnam from Feb. 27 to 28.