DPRK top leader seeks to shore up alliance after failed Hanoi summit
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea may be seeking a breakthrough in the stalled nuclear talks with the United States by enhancing partnerships with its traditional allies, analysts said following a report that DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un is likely to visit Russia "in the near future".
According to Russia's Tass news agency, the Russian government has formally invited the DPRK top leader to visit Russia this year, and the Kremlin is now "awaiting a response from Pyongyang".
Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, said last week that the invitation has been given to Kim and the date of the visit will be agreed upon "in the near future".
According to Reuters, Putin sent Kim an invitation in May last year to join the Eastern Economic Forum held annually in September in Vladivostok. However, Kim did not attend the meeting.
If Kim visits Russia this year, it will be his first meeting with Putin and the first DPRK-Russia summit since 2011.
Meanwhile, media reports from the Republic of Korea said Kim's chief protocol secretary, Kim Chang-son, made a five-day visit to Moscow last week. His visit was viewed as a necessary step ahead of a Kim-Putin summit-since he also was in Singapore and Vietnam shortly before the two summits that Kim had with US President Donald Trump, to inspect hotels and other accommodations for the DPRK delegation, the reports said.
Russian media also said members of a parliamentary group that deals with Russia's relations with the DPRK will visit Pyongyang on Friday.
The announcement came as the second summit between Kim and Trump collapsed in Vietnam, where the two sides failed to sign an agreement on denuclearization or easing of sanctions on the DPRK.
Analysts said that if the Kim-Putin summit does occur, the main issues on the agenda would likely be continuing the denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula and boosting the DPRK's diplomatic ties with Russia, focusing on political as well as economic fronts.
"It is highly feasible for Kim Jong-un to visit Russia in the wake of the failed Hanoi summit," said Li Chengri, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"Under the current diplomatic situation, Kim may be seeking an alternative way to strengthen the alliance with Pyongyang's traditional ally Russia, as part of efforts to take advantage of the latter's diplomatic influence so that negotiations on denuclearization will continue," Li added.
In a recent editorial, the DPRK's official media, the Korean Central News Agency, said: "Russia is a neighboring country of the DPRK, and DPRK-Russia ties are friendly relations with a long history. …The two countries have a shared aim of opposing foreign interference and pressure and defending their sovereignties," it said.
Luo Zhen, a Northeast Asia researcher at the Pangoal Institution, a public policy think tank based in Beijing, said that whether or not Kim Jong-un visits Russia, a strong signal sent from Pyongyang after the Hanoi summit is that the DPRK will not see the negotiations with the US as the sole solution to the nuclear issues on the Korean Peninsula.
According to Seoul-based newspaper The Korea Times, Republic of Korea President Moon Jae-in is also eager for more involvement with the DPRK and Russia. Moon earlier touted the development of economic cooperation in Northeast Asia, and Russia and the DPRK are widely seen as the key pillars of such collaboration in his proposed New Northern Policy.