North Korea has shuttered two more diplomatic missions in Hong Kong and Libya, bringing down the global total from 46 to 44, South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
The additional shutdown, part of a series of such moves, followed the Foreign Ministry's earlier confirmation of Pyongyang's closure of embassies in seven countries: Guinea, Nepal, Bangladesh, Senegal, Spain, Angola, and Uganda, as of early December.
The Hong Kong government's official website has officially acknowledged North Korea's consulate general withdrawal by removing North Korea from the list of consulates based in the region, effective Jan. 4, according to the Foreign Ministry.
The Foreign Ministry also verified the shutdown of the North Korean Embassy in Libya "through various channels," a senior official -- who wished to remain anonymous - said during a closed-door briefing. However, the official did not provide future details including a time frame for the closure.
News about consecutive closures began emerging last October. In November, North Korea's Foreign Ministry asserted that the country was pursuing the diplomatic initiative -- which aims to "efficiently reallocate and operate the country's diplomatic capabilities" -- by withdrawing and establishing diplomatic missions.
But South Korea's Foreign Ministry in December explained the main driving force behind the move could be linked to economic challenges. The challenges are perceived to have intensified due to economic sanctions imposed on the country, coupled with difficulties in illicitly generating hard currency in overseas countries.