July 20 (UPI) -- North Korea said Pyongyang's friendship with Moscow "ensured regional peace and security" in a statement commemorating a joint Russia-North Korea declaration signed more than two decades ago.
North Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement published online Tuesday that the 21st anniversary of the July 19, 2000, agreement is an "important milestone in deepening friendship and cooperation to meet the demands of the new century."
State media previously has said Russian President Vladimir Putin and former leader Kim Jong Il agreed in 2000 to strengthen military cooperation and promote exchange that advances friendly relations.
The foreign ministry said Tuesday that the joint declaration also is the "driving force behind the unchanging development of friendly and cooperative relations in the complex international environment of the 21st century."
The accord is a "historical document that has important significance in ensuring the sound development of international relations, and ensuring world peace and security.
"Based on the declaration, mutually beneficial cooperation and exchanges have been developed and strategic communication has been strengthened," North Korea's foreign ministry said.
Pyongyang also mentioned the April 2019 summit between Kim Jong Un and Putin, a "historic reunion" that ""reaffirmed the unchanging flow of history."
Russia was one of the top destinations for North Korean forced laborers before international sanctions banned the practice. The laborers often were sent to work in labor-intensive industries to earn foreign currency for the regime.
Russia said in 2020 that the "majority" of North Korean workers were repatriated. Some workers may still be active, however.
The Washington Post reported Sunday that North Korean workers remain in Vladivostok in eastern Russia and that several Russian construction supervisors confirmed they continue to hire North Koreans.
The United States has said that the North Korean government earned more than $500 million annually from its overseas labor force before sanctions, according to the report.