Kuwait's foreign ministry rejected “recent media reports” on the “existence of large North Korean expatriate workers in Kuwait.”
Previously, The Associated Press said that Kuwait will continue to grant visas to North Korean laborers whose wages allegedly aid Pyongyang in evading international sanctions, quoting its government on Thursday before its president travels to Washington to meet President Donald Trump.
However, late Thursday, Kuwait's state-run KUNA news agency issued a statement saying the nation remains committed to the United Nations Security Council resolution on economic embargo on North Korea.
The source added, “regarding the reports by US media outlets that the Kuwait authoritis are continuing issuing entry visas for North Korea, foreign ministry categorically refutes the existence of such alleged numbers of workers.”
AP said that it received a statement from Kuwaiti government affirming that Kuwait also said it never stopped issuing work visas for North Koreans, refuting a major State Department human trafficking report released in June that applauded the Mideast nation for taking steps to limit their presence.
READ MORE: Qatar crisis and the invasion of Kuwait
Experts and analysts say the money earned from those enterprises helps Pyongyang buy luxury goods and build the missiles it now uses to threaten the US territory of Guam, as well as other parts of the U.S. and America's Asian allies.
Kuwait currently hosts 6,064 North Korean laborers, the country's Public Authority of Manpower said in a statement sent to the AP by the Information Ministry.
That's more than double the estimate offered by two officials with knowledge of Pyongyang's operations in the Gulf who spoke to the AP. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports, they earlier said some 2,500 North Koreans worked in Kuwait.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauer in Washington said Thursday "the government of Kuwait will be taking further measures in response to the dangerous and provocative behavior of DPRK regime within the coming days, we are told," she said, using an acronym for North Korea.
Kuwait's president, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, is scheduled to travel to Washington in September to meet US President Donald Trump. The visit by Al-Sabah comes as he's been trying to mediate between Qatar and Arab nations, though North Korea potentially could come up at the meeting as well.