North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will travel to Moscow next month to take part a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Russia’s ambassador to Seoul said Thursday.
Speculation has been mounting since Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he had received “positive” signs that Kim Jong-un would join in commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany, which would be the young ruler’s maiden overseas trip since taking power in December 2012.
Dozens of heads of states were invited including presidents Park Geun-hye, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping. But South Korea and the U.S. have already said Park and Obama do not plan to visit, with Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Saenuri Party picked as Seoul’s special envoy.
“Kim’s participation was confirmed through a diplomatic channel and such a matter is not necessarily made public always. So don’t worry about it, he will probably go,” Alexander Timonin told a news conference at the embassy in central Seoul, raising the possibility of a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“I respect the decision of the South Korean president and I am confident that this will not affect the bilateral relationship.”
With Russia stepping up outreach to Pyongyang, the envoy also expressed the country’s willingness to invest in a joint inter-Korean industrial park in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong.
“Numerous projects” are being discussed, including one proposed by ethnic Korean entrepreneurs in Russia on food production.
“Russia is ready to actively take part in the Gaeseong industrial complex,” he said. “We will introduce it when the agreement is reached.”
Timonin expressed stiff opposition to a possible stationing of advanced U.S. missile assets in South Korea.
The U.S. Forces Korea has confirmed that it had carried out a site survey for possible stationing of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, which is designed to shoot down short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in their terminal stage.
But Seoul has been reluctant over its deployment given likely repercussions at home and abroad of its virtual participation in the U.S.-led global missile defense program, which China and Russia deem is directed at them.
“THAAD is part of the U.S.’ global missile defense scheme. … We’re opposed to any deployment of it in regions near Russia,” the ambassador said.
“It is a very complex military and political issue, so you have to take into account potential side effects in the regional situation when you make such a decision.”
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)