January 22, 2024
SEOUL – North Korea says it is ready to host Russian President Vladimir Putin for a state visit.
The state official Korea Central News Agency on Sunday said that Putin has expressed his willingness to visit Pyongyang, reporting the results of its Foreign Minister Choe Sun-hui’s recent trip to Moscow.
“The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea warmly welcomes the state visit of comrade president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, to our country. We are ready to receive the best friend of the Korean people with utmost respect,” the KCNA said.
Choe, who was in Moscow until Friday at the invitation of her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, held talks with Putin there. Following the meeting, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian president has been invited to Pyongyang, without going into details about dates.
If the summit in Pyongyang goes ahead, Putin will be reciprocating North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s visit to the Vostochny Spaceport in Russia’s Far East, which took place in September. For the head of state of Russia, it would mark his first North Korea trip in 24 years.
South Korean authorities are wary of Russia expanding its military and economic support to North Korea, including the transfer of technologies for building strategic weapons.
The authorities in Seoul suspect Russian aid to be behind North Korea’s successful launch of its first spy satellite in November.
Russia is believed to have provided North Korea with space technology in exchange for weapons.
Since the Pyongyang trip by Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, in July 2023, North Korea has continued to ship arms munitions such as artillery shells, anti-tank weapons and portable anti-aircraft missiles.
The US has said Russia has been using North Korea-supplied weapons, including ballistic missiles, in its war in Ukraine.
In the Sunday report, the KCNA said Russia expressed “deep appreciation for the full support and solidarity that the DPRK has shown to the Russian government and its people regarding the military operations in Ukraine.”
In the latest in a series of recent provocations, North Korea on Friday claimed it conducted a test of an “underwater nuclear weapons system” as a protest of South Korea conducting combined maritime drills with the US and Japan earlier that week.
The Ministry of National Defense in Seoul dismissed the announcement on the purported underwater test as a “claim,” while condemning the “successive provocative actions” by North Korea as a violation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and a threat to peace in the region and beyond.