N. Korea's Kim to visit Moscow: Russian lawmaker

MOSCOW • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia for talks this spring or summer, RIA news agency cited Russian lawmaker Alexander Bashkin as saying yesterday.

The exact date of the trip has not yet been set, Mr Bashkin said.

The Kremlin confirmed on a conference call that a trip by Mr Kim to Russia was being worked on but said that it was not able to provide further details.

"As soon as there is a concrete agreement on time, place and the form of the meeting, we will present the relevant information," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call.

The planned visit comes amid speculation that Pyongyang is seeking to tighten cooperation with Beijing and Moscow in a bid to increase its leverage in future dealings with Washington.

On Friday, US President Trump decided against imposing new large-scale sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, a move experts said could be an effort to defuse tensions.

On Sunday, Mr Kim Chang Son, chief secretary of the North Korean Secretariat of the State Affairs Commission and a longtime aide to Mr Kim Jong Un's family, wrapped up a five-day visit to Moscow.

As Mr Kim Chang Son was also responsible for hammering out the details of Mr Kim Jong Un's visits to Singapore and Vietnam for the summits with US President Donald Trump, his visit to Moscow has fuelled further speculation about an impending Moscow-Pyongyang summit.

Mr Kim Chang Son's visit to Russia followed consecutive reports from the North's state media highlighting Pyongyang-Moscow relations.

Meanwhile, North Korea has returned its staff to an inter-Korean liaison office, Seoul said yesterday, just days after unilaterally withdrawing from the joint facility located at the countries' shared border.

North Korea had unexpectedly announced its withdrawal from the office, which serves as an important communication channel between the long-time rivals.

North Korea had been sending between 15 to 20 officers to the workplace on weekdays. South Korea usually has a staff of about 60.

The centre was established in September and the withdrawal had sparked concerns that Pyongyang would totally cut off dialogue with Seoul.

Although no reason was given for the sudden withdrawal, the move followed a failed summit at the end of February between leaders of North Korea and the US, South Korea's ally.

The Unification Ministry in Seoul offered no explanation yesterday as to why the North decided to reverse its decision.

REUTERS, THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK, DPA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2019, with the headline 'N. Korea's Kim to visit Moscow: Russian lawmaker'. Print Edition | Subscribe