MOSCOW, Nov. 18 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's envoy, Choe Ryong Hae, arrived in Russia Monday on a seven-day visit.
The envoy arrived in Moscow later in the day than expected due to suspected technical issues with his aircraft. According to a diplomatic source in Moscow, "The special plane that left Pyongyang in the morning had flown back to Pyongyang," Yonhap News reported. "There might be problems in the fuselage, but the exact cause for flying back is not known."
Choe, one of the Supreme Leader's closest aides, will hold high-level talks with Russian officials on a number of issues.
"First, it is the nuclear program, to be more precise, prospects of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," said Russian deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov.
"Second, it is security in northeastern Asia in a broader context. There are a lot of problems there," Ryabkov added.
"Apart from that, in focus there will be bilateral relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, which, as far as I understand, have had certain dynamics in the recent time."
Choe was scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday.
The diplomatic trip comes as North Korea seeks to strengthen its bilateral relations with Russia amid cooling ties with China.
"Our government views the dispatch of Choe Ryong Hae to Russia as in line with (Pyongyang's) attempt to diversify its external relations," South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheoi said at a press conference.
North Korea is attempting to expand its trade diversification in response to international pressure on China to use its economic influence to deter the North's nuclear ambitions. Last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry applauded China for "being helpful" with regard to imposing "limitations on trade going into the country."
Militarily, there is evidence North Korea is already seeking to strengthen ties with Russia. North Korean Defense Minister Hyon Yong Chol met last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a birthday celebration for former Soviet Union Defense Minister Dmitry Yazo.
Politically, Russia could prove a useful veto power at the U.N. Security Council should a vote be called on a resolution referring Kim Jong Un to the International Criminal Court for human rights violations.
Although U.S. Ambassador Robert King, Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, predicts China would use its veto power to stop the resolution, North Korea could be seeking Russia's support in the event international pressure sways Beijing.