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Reported execution of North Korean official could hurt relations with Russia, expert says

Hyon’s execution would make Russia think twice about warming to North Korea, said Dennis Halpin, formerly of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

By Elizabeth Shim
Reported execution of North Korean official could hurt relations with Russia, expert says
While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may have ordered the execution of his defense minister, it is likely opinions of top officials were taken into consideration, said an expert. Photo by KCNA/Yonhap

SEOUL, May 13 (UPI) -- While speculation grows over North Korea defense minister Hyon Yong Chol, analysts said that if he was executed, it could harm relations with Russia.

Dennis Halpin, formerly of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, told Radio Free Asia that Hyon had concluded a trip to Russia to discuss ways to strengthen military cooperation between the two countries just before he was supposedly executed.

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Hyon's execution would make Russia think twice about warming to North Korea, as the incident would make North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a "strange person" from Moscow's perspective, Halpin said, according to Yonhap.

Halpin said the news of the execution could worsen bilateral relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, similar to how the execution of Kim Jong Un's uncle Jang Song Thaek defined a downturn in relations with China.

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It is also suspected that if Hyon were executed, the decision would have reflected the various opinions of top-ranking North Korean officials, and not just that of Kim.

John Merrill, chief of the Northeast Asia Division of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State, said military officials in North Korea seem to be more under fire than those in charge of economic policy, according to South Korean newspaper Korea Economic Daily.

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In April, Kim canceled his proposed visit to Moscow for Russia's May 9 Victory Day celebrations.

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Speculation over Hyon began when South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers he had been executed on April 29 or 30. The National Intelligence Service later said it could not confirm Hyon's death.

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