World Bulletin/News Desk
South Korea expressed concern Monday over a visit to Russia by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s close aide Choe Ryong-hae - a government spokesperson telling reporters the trip was “unusual.”
Choe - who has the title Workers’ Party Secretary, among others - is considered among the top three leaders in the reclusive North’s hierarchy.
Russia’s foreign ministry confirmed over the weekend that Choe would make an eight-day visit from Monday, with Moscow also providing an outline of the trip’s agenda - including talks on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asian security and bilateral ties.
Choe is set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, according to Seoul sources cited by local news agency Yonhap.
The trip comes as North Korea has been intensifying efforts to strengthen relations with Russia – while seeing ties with its long-time ally China cool down.
Seoul unification ministry spokesperson Lim Byeong-cheol told a press briefing Monday that Choe’s trip was viewed as aggressive diplomacy and part of an “attempt to diversify [North Korea’s] external relations.”
The North had welcomed Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev in April, while Pyongyang sent Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong to meet his counterpart Sergey Lavrov last month.
Meanwhile, China has been ramping up efforts to pressure North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions – as highlighted by President Xi Jinping’s joint stance on the issue with Barack Obama of the United States after the pair met in Beijing last week.
China’s recently announced free trade deal with South Korea also points to greater diplomatic openness from Beijing’s leadership toward Pyongyang’s sworn enemies.
The Koreas remain technically at war after failing to sign a peace treaty after their 1950-53 conflict – with nearly 30,000 U.S. troops stationed in the South.
Analysts in Seoul have also suggested Pyongyang is seeking Russian support as a United Nations committee is set to vote on a resolution against North Korea over its human rights – Moscow holds veto power on the U.N. Security Council.Last Mod: 17 Kasım 2014, 13:16