N. Korea minister urges stronger ties with Russia

MOSCOW • North Korea's Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, on a visit to Moscow, said the situation on the Korean peninsula and world events showed that his country and Russia needed to forge stronger relations, as Pyongyang moves to improve strained ties with its neighbours.

Mr Ri was speaking before talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov yesterday on the situation around North Korea's nuclear and missile programme, as well as tensions involving Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington.

"The current situation on the Korean peninsula and around your country, and the overall international political situation require our two countries to further strengthen friendly cooperation, to increase our strategic communication and coordination of action between our countries," Mr Ri told reporters.

He said he hoped they would find concrete ways to create "a new milestone" this year in their ties.

Mr Ri's visit comes ahead of planned summits between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and the presidents of South Korea and the United States in the coming weeks.

"Now it's particularly important (for North Korea) to enlist support, including from Russia, to cover its back," said Mr Alexander Vorontsov, a specialist on the region from Moscow's Oriental Studies Institute.

Mr Ri visited Beijing last week for talks with his Chinese counterpart, after Mr Kim made a landmark trip to the Chinese capital last month.

Russia, which has backed United Nations Security Council resolutions over Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile tests, still has quite warm ties with North Korea, with which it shares a small land border.

Mr Lavrov told reporters after meeting Mr Ri that he had accepted an invitation to visit Pyongyang, but no decisions had been made on talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mr Kim.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 11, 2018, with the headline 'N. Korea minister urges stronger ties with Russia'. Print Edition | Subscribe