Vladimir Putin has invited the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to attend May 9, 2015 in ceremonies commemorating the 70th anniversary of Russia’s victory over Nazism. “It is true that such an invitation was sent,” said Friday, December 19 the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by Tass, confirming information published a few days earlier in the Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun. It would be the first foreign trip of Kim Jong-un since he succeeded his father in 2011 as the head of North Korea.
The gesture of the head of the Russian state is far from trivial, when we know the importance of May 9 in the collective memory of the country. This is the most patriotic celebration; that day, Moscow is covered with St George ribbons of orange and black – though of late, it also became the symbol support for pro-Russian insurgents in Donbass.
This invitation follows the visit to Russia from November 17 to 24, Marshal Choe Ryong-hae, secretary of the Central Committee of the Labour Party, in power in Korea, and considered a close leader to Kim Jong-un. The “special envoy” of the North Korean leader, according to the terminology used by Russian diplomacy is not only come closer bilateral relations, expand trade, or even mention “some international issues of mutual interest” he was also carrying a message to Vladimir Putin. According to Xinhua news agency, Kim Jong-un expressed his particular willingness to “cooperate to develop bilateral ties and to resolve persistent problems in the Korean peninsula.”
“We had a decisive and concrete maintenance”, said the North Korean official after being received by the Head of the Kremlin. “The talks were constructive,” he had added the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after the departure of his guest from Moscow to Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, two cities in the Russian Far East.
At odds with the West since it is subject to international sanctions in response to the Ukrainian conflict, Russia is seeking to develop its relations with Asia, China, India, but also North Korea, which it yet still has closely monitored for the nuclear ambitions.
Lavrov said that Pyongyang was “ready to resume unconditionally the conversation” (China, Russia, Japan, the US and the two Koreas), a framework for discussions on the North Korean nuclear today dormant. Putin has also always shown interest in the Russian Far East, which seeks to promote development through energy projects such as the exploitation of gas fields of Sakhalin.
It would be the first foreign trip of Kim Jong-un since he succeeded his father in 2011 as head of North Korea.
On 18 November, in the middle of the visit of the envoy of Pyongyang, Moscow was supporting the North Korean regime in the most obvious way. Through its representative to the UN, Anatoly Viktorov, Russia was thus declared a “concerned about the tendency to enter the Security Council on issues relating to human rights in any country” while the UN examining a draft resolution that could lead the north Korean regime to international justice for crimes against humanity.
The invitation by the Kremlin to Kim Jong-un – grand-son of Kim Il-sung, founder in 1948 with the help of the Soviets of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – is not only one more challenge in the context of cold war with neo-west. It is also a way to deliberately turn their backs on Western “partners” and an additional sign of defiance. Ten years ago, for the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazism, US President George W. Bush, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were the guests of honor.
More generally, Pyongyang and Moscow multiply reconciliation signs. In February, a delegation led by Kim Yong Nam, president of the Supreme People’s Assembly, had gone to Sochi during the Olympic Games in which North Korea does not participate yet.
Besides the political aspect, Pyongyang and Moscow develop their economic cooperation. In April, Moscow erased 90% of North Korea’s debt, a legacy of the Soviet period. For Russia, North Korea is an ideal gateway for trade to South Korea – which has not adopted sanctions against Moscow on the Ukrainian question – and to the rest of Northeast Asia.
Subject to a series of economic sanctions related to its nuclear and missile development activities, North Korea seeks his side to strengthen or revive trade with its neighbors: Russia, therefore, but also South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Japan. This is for it a way to diversify its partners and not depend exclusively on China, Western with which relations are now more strained.