North Korea FM in Russia as activated diplomacy continues
North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has traveled to Russia, where he is due to hold talks with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
Foreign Minister Ri arrived in the Russian capital, Moscow, on Monday, in what is the continuation of a flurry of diplomatic efforts by North Korea to improve ties with its neighbors, chiefly South Korea.
Ri and Lavrov will meet later on Tuesday to discuss ways to resolve tensions on the Korean Peninsula as well as other topics, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced in a statement ahead of the talks. It also hailed what it described as “positive trends” in the region.
Pyongyang’s top diplomat arrived in Moscow from the central Asian Republic of Turkmenistan. Earlier, he had been to Azerbaijan, according to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.
Last week, Ri had traveled to China, where he held talks with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.
North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has arrived in China’s capital of Beijing for talks with his Chinese counterpart.
Ri’s trip to China came shortly after a landmark visit to China last month by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
Kim’s three-day meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in late March occurred during his first foreign travel since rising to power in 2011. China is North Korea’s main trading partner and political ally.
The Russia visit takes place ahead of planned summits between Kim and the presidents of rival South Korea and the US in the upcoming weeks.
While the meeting with the South’s Moon Jae-in is set to take place on April 27 in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two Koreas, the extraordinary summit with US President Donald Trump will potentially be held in May or June, according to Trump himself.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula were running high last year. Pyongyang advanced its weapons program as the US took an increasingly war-like posture toward North Korea. But Kim expressed sudden interest in the resolution of disagreements with the South on New Year’s Day, and a series of overtures began.
The Russian Foreign Ministry statement further said that Moscow backed “direct dialog” between Pyongyang and Washington as well as the “normalization” of ties between the two Koreas.
Although Moscow has supported United Nations Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang’s ballistic missile and nuclear tests, Russia maintains relatively close ties with North Korea — with which it shares a small land border — and provides it with some food aid.
Nearly 35,000 North Korean nationals are currently working in far eastern Russia as laborers mostly in the agricultural, construction, and timber felling industries. Russia, however, is phasing out that program in accordance with a UNSC resolution and has begun sending the North Koreans home since February.