NORTH KOREA- Kim Jong Un the leader of North Korean is set to visit Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Pyongyang is seeking Russian investment, while Moscow wants more access to North Korea’s mineral resources.
North Korean state media said on Tuesday that the country’s leader Kim Jong Un would visit Russia “in the second half of April.”
Kim “will soon pay a visit to the Russian Federation at the invitation” of Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s official KCNA news service said.
The announcement came after North Korea voiced criticism of the United States over stalled nuclear negotiations. While China is regarded as North Korea’s closest ally, Moscow also enjoys good relations with Pyongyang.
Speculation has arisen that Putin might meet Kim in the eastern city of Vladivostok, as a stop-off on his way to a conference in China.
A South Korean official told DPA news agency that Seoul welcomed the visit, which it understood to be part of the process to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
While Russia is seeking broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals, North Korea is seeking access to Russian electricity supplies and investment in infrastructure.
Pyongyang is desperate to modernize the country’s Soviet-built industrial plants and railways.
The Kremlin kept close ties with Pyongyang during the Soviet era, building dozens of factories and important pieces of infrastructure. It also sent supplies and provided weapons for the North Korean military.
That support ended after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, during Russia’s economic meltdown.
Putin sought to reinvigorate ties with the country, visiting Pyongyang in July 2000. North Korea’s then leader Kim Jong Il said that, in Putin, Russia had a leader “with whom to do business.”
At the time, Putin boasted about securing a promise that North Korea would abandon its missile program in exchange for foreign help in launching satellites.
Although Kim quickly rebuffed the statement, relations remained warm and the North Korean leader crossed Russia by train to visit Moscow in 2001.
While military cooperation between the states was stopped by United Nations sanctions, Moscow provided grain and humanitarian aid to the North. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of North Korean migrant laborers have worked in the underpopulated far east of Russia.