Putin keen on visiting Pyongyang at an ‘early date’, North Korea says

Putin keen on visiting Pyongyang at an ‘early date’, North Korea says

Russian president Vladimir Putin could visit North Korea “at an early date”, Pyongyang said, as the countries have ramped up efforts to strengthen ties amid international concerns.

North Korea and Russia have pledged to establish a “new multi-polarised international order” and are undertaking “deep strategic communication” on various regional and international issues, the North Korean foreign ministry said on Sunday, according to state media KCNA.

It comes as Mr Putin and foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met visiting North Korean foreign minister Choe Son Hui, in the first North Korean high-profile visit after leader Kim Jong-un travelled to the far-eastern Russian port of Vladivostok in September last year.

Mr Kim had invited the Russian leader to Pyongyang who accepted the invitation to visit at an unconfirmed date.

“President Putin expressed deep thanks once again for the invitation of President of the State Affairs Kim Jong Un to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time and expressed his willingness to visit the DPRK at an early date,” KCNA reported referring to North Korea with its official name.

The prospect of a Russia-North Korea alliance in arms and military cooperation has raised concerns among Western countries and their allies in the Korean peninsula. This is particularly worrisome as Moscow enters its second year of the war in Ukraine and expresses a keen interest in fostering relations with adversaries of the United States.

The White House has raised concerns that North Korea could be providing Russia with munitions to help prolong its fighting in Ukraine, possibly in exchange for badly needed economic aid and military assistance to help upgrade Mr Kim’s forces.

Both Pyongyang and Russia have denied accusations by Washington and Seoul about North Korean arms transfers to Russia amid their deepening ties.

Analysts say the rekindling of the partnership that has roots going back to the Soviet era may tip the scales, altering the dynamics in two volatile regions, both in Ukraine and the Korean Peninsula.

Russia expressed “deep thanks” to North Korea for its “full support” to its war in Ukraine, the foreign ministry of North Korea said.

It said Ms Choe and the Russian officials expressed "serious concern" over the United States’ expanding military cooperation with its Asian allies that they blamed for worsening tensions in the region and threatening North Korea’s sovereignty and security interests.

Tensions in the Korean peninsula have reached tipping points after North Korea said it will no longer pursue reconciliation with South Korea and is moving to formally describe it as a “primary foe” in its constitution.

Pyongyang states that this action is in retaliation to US interference in the region, with the armies of Washington, South Korea, and Japan intensifying their joint military exercises — exercises that Mr Kim portrays as invasion rehearsals.

South Korea on Thursday urged the UN Security Council "to break the silence" over North Korea’s escalating missile tests and threats.

It was after North Korea on Friday said it conducted a test of a purported nuclear-capable underwater attack drone in response to a combined naval exercise by the US, South Korea and Japan last week.

North Korea described Mr Putin as the “closest friend” and said their friendly relations have “entered the course of a new comprehensive development”.