MOSCOW (AFP) – The Kremlin on Wednesday confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un will attend World War II ceremonies in Moscow in May, in what would be his first foreign trip since taking power in 2011.
“The participation of the North Korean leader has been confirmed, we are preparing for his arrival,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency.
Kim is among several foreign leaders who have confirmed their participation, Peskov said without providing further details.
Russia has also invited US President Barack Obama to take part in ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Peskov was not immediately available for further comment.
If Kim does make Moscow his first foreign trip since taking power after the death of his father Kim Jong-Il, it would reflect a desire to reduce his country’s dependence on China, which remains Pyongyang’s main ally, diplomatic protector and economic buttress.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected to attend the Moscow ceremonies.
Mr Xi and Kim have kept their distance since each assumed power and the Chinese president’s first visit as head of state to the Korean peninsula was to the capitalist South last year, rather than the North.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye has also been invited to the Moscow event, but has yet to announce whether she will attend.
Both Russia and China have opposed the UN call for Pyongyang to be referred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over its human rights record.
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visited Russia in August 2011 in his armoured train for a rare meeting with then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.
Russia is seeking to expand economic ties with North Korea and is eyeing a project worth about US$25 billion (S$29 billion euros) to overhaul the country’s railway network in return for access to mineral resources.
The trip would be Mr Kim’s first foreign visit since taking power in the reclusive state in 2011, succeeding his father, Mr Kim Jong Il, who died suddenly, and is likely to come before he visits China, the North’s main ally.
Moscow invited Mr Kim to the event that marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, and it will be attended by a host of world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping. Yonhap said the Kremlin, responding to an query sent by e-mail, said 20 leaders had confirmed their attendance so far, "including North Korea's leader".