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Kim Jong Un visit to Moscow confirmed, says Russian official

Pyongyang has not yet made an official announcement through its state media outlets but talk of Kim's visit to Moscow has been circulating since December.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Russia has extended an invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to attend its Victory Day celebrations, and an unnamed Russian official confirmed Kim's attendance on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Yonhap/KCNA.
Russia has extended an invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to attend its Victory Day celebrations, and an unnamed Russian official confirmed Kim's attendance on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Yonhap/KCNA.

MOSCOW, March 19 (UPI) -- Speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Moscow during his first official foreign trip, was confirmed Thursday by an unnamed Russian official.

CNN reported North Korea has accepted the invitation to partake in Russia's Victory Day celebrations in May, which will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

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"The invitation was sent to Kim Jong Un. North Korea accepted the invitation," the Russian official said.

Pyongyang has not yet made an official announcement through its state media outlets, but North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun recently featured photographs celebrating close relations between the two countries.

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"The bond of friendship runs deeper every day," said one article which featured photos of North Korean Workers' Party Secretary Choe Ryong Hae and Russian President Vladimir Putin shaking hands in November.

CNN reported talk of Kim's visit to Moscow had been circulating since December, when Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov had told a Russian media outlet the "North Korean leader plans to come to Moscow and attend celebrations."

Dr. Leonid Petrov, an Asian studies professor at Australian National University, said North Korea is a "convenient friend for Moscow."

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"It's anti-American and it's in a key place of Asia," he said.

In recent years Russia has been jumpstarting its old ties to North Korea. According to Petrov, Russia absolved $10 billion of Soviet-era debt owed by North Korea.

South Korea's overseas trade agency in Moscow said on Wednesday economic exchange between Russia and North Korea has witnessed remarkable growth. North Korean exports to Russia grew almost 32 percent in 2014, or $10.2 million.

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CNN reported the two countries have goals to increase trade to $1 billion annually.

North Korean envoy visits to Moscow have also increased.

On March 13, the Russian foreign ministry said North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, held a meeting to discuss the situation on the Korean peninsula and northeast Asia.

But Yonhap reported analysts believe the meeting was to plan for Kim Jong Un's visit to Russia in May.

The Kremlin has extended invitations to 68 countries to its Victory Day celebrations, to be held on May 9. Russia's foreign minister said Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend but German chancellor Angela Merkel has declined.

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The event also celebrates the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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