June 2 (UPI) -- Railway services between North Korea and Russia is to resume service in July, according to Russia's state-owned railway company.
RZD Russian Railways said train services suspended in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in China could resume next month, Radio Free Asia reported Tuesday.
RZD Partner International magazine said service would restart on routes that connect Moscow to the Tumen River, Pyongyang and Moscow, Pyongyang and Khabarovsk.
In January, Russia had said it had yet to repatriate all North Korean guest workers. According to a member of the United Nations Panel of Experts of the U.N. Security Council, the repatriation of state-sanctioned guest workers may have been delayed due to North Korea's decision to shut its border earlier this year. It is unclear whether the trains will be used for repatriation, according to South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News.
Lee Shin-wook, an analyst at South Korea's Dong-A University, told RFA the Russians are likely to accelerate the strengthening of ties with Pyongyang in the "post-coronavirus" period. Russia could be seeking to expand North Korea connections first, the analyst said.
Lee added the Russians could be looking for an opportunity to step into a void that is being left unfilled following a possible chill in Sino-North Korean ties in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Security Council adopted a resolution in December 2017 that required U.N. member states to return all North Korean workers. The labor force is believed to be a source of funds for North Korea's illicit activities.
North Korea depends heavily on China for trade, and has rebuffed calls for inter-Korea cooperation from the South.
North Korean propaganda service Uriminzokkiri said Tuesday the South has been engaged in anti-unification policies. State media also said there have been no "proper implementation" of inter-Korea agreements.