UAE terminates North Korean diplomatic mission, ends visas

DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates is ending the mission of North Korea’s non-resident ambassador and terminating its own envoy’s services in Pyongyang, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday carried by state news agency WAM.

The UAE will also stop issuing new visas or company licences to North Korean citizens, WAM said.

Several thousand North Korean workers reside in the U.S-allied Gulf region, mainly working on construction sites.

“The measures... come within the context of (the UAE’s) obligation as a responsible member of the international community to strengthen the international will and to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and missile programs,” the Foreign Ministry said.

U.S. President Donald Trump urged United Nations member states last month to turn up the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, using his maiden speech to the world body to address what he has said is the top global challenge.

North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches have stirred global tensions and prompted several rounds of international sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

In Washington, the U.S. State Department welcomed the UAE’s decision.

“Very happy to hear that,” State Department spokesman Heather Nauert told reporters. “There are many countries that are taking those steps that we have asked (them) to take.”

The UAE announcement follows similar moves by the UAE’s Gulf Arab neighbors Qatar and Kuwait, which last month downgraded their ties with Pyongyang and ceased issuing new visas to North Korean citizens.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Noah Browning; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Editing by Gareth Jones and Leslie Adler