One would assume with North Korea being one of the most isolated countries in the world, it would have rather limited foreign relations. On the contrary however, the foreign relations of North Korea are extensive, with only a few countries that are excluded from its list of diplomatic relations.
As of June 2012, North Korea maintains diplomatic relations with 165 states (including State of Palestine and the European Union). But relations with these states are terminated: Argentina, Chile, Iraq and Botswana.
North Korea has yet to establish diplomatic relations with:
- In North America: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Panama, and the United States
- In South America: Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay
- In Europe: Andorra, Estonia, France, Monaco, the Holy See, and The Sovereign Military Order of Malta
- In Asia: Bhutan, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan. North Korea does not recognize South Korea as a legitimate state.
- In Oceania: Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu
- Elsewhere: Sahrawi Republic and the rest of the states with limited recognition except Palestine.
Not surprisingly, we see the United States of America and South Korea on the list.
While North Korea does maintain diplomatic relations with the rest of the countries not mentioned, it cannot be said that these relations are friendly. Most of it are mainly due to pragmatic and economic reasons, on the basis of a mutually beneficial relationship.
In reality, the government of North Korea has few friends around the world, with only China, Russia and Bulgaria that can be called its ally.
China maintains a generally supportive stance toward North Korea, but the relationship is not on the best of terms as of 2015. Russia is perhaps replacing China as North Korea’s strongest ally. In 2015, the two countries officially declared “a year of friendship”.
It is only logical that North Korea’s most prominent, in fact virtually only, ally in Europe is Bulgaria, one of the most repressive eastern European regimes during the Cold War. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1948 and signed a bilateral cooperation agreement in 1970. Bulgaria is one of the few countries officially visited more than once by Kim Il-sung. North Korea’s only other significant ally is another historically poor, historically repressive country, Cuba.