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North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (picture-alliance/dpa/S. Savostyanov)
As a series of key international summits draw closer, Pyongyang is seeking support from a traditional ally, while Russia is keen to play a significant role on the international stage. Julian Ryall reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accepted an invitation extended by Ri Yong Ho, his North Korean counterpart, to visit Pyongyang at some point in the future, an indication of the close ties that still exist between the two countries despite the international pressure on the regime of Kim Jong Un.
Ri issued the invitation during talks in Moscow on Tuesday, where Lavrov said in a press conference that Russia welcomes the “gradual normalization” of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as plans for direct negotiations between North Korea and the United States to resolve longstanding security problems in the region.
Analysts point out that despite Russia supporting a series of resolutions in the United Nations that have imposed increasingly tough sanctions on North Korea over its development of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, bilateral relations have been good in recent years as both Moscow and Pyongyang have been ostracized by the international community to varying degrees.
While North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have been cause for widespread concern, Russia has been broadly condemned for its intervention in the Ukraine, its ongoing support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and allegations that it interfered in the US election as well as in other votes in Western nations.
“I see clear similarities in this trip by Ri to Kim Jong Un’s recent visit to Beijing to meet Xi Jinping,” said James Brown, an associate professor at the Japan campus of Temple University and an expert on North Korea-Russia relations.
“In the lead up to the summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and, ultimately, President [Donald] Trump, North Korea is doing everything in its power to make sure it is in the strongest possible position,” he told DW.
“The North wants to make sure that both China and Russia — who have been their traditional allies — are still on their side,” he said. “Beijing still has a security guarantee arrangement and although Russia no longer has the security guarantee that existed in the Soviet era, it is clear that Pyongyang’s ties with Moscow have been improving in recent years.”
That relationship has even improved in the last couple of years at a time when Beijing was “pulling back” from its previously close links with Pyongyang, Brown said.Source: Deutsche Welle