|North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, Russia, Wednesday (local time). Reuters-Yonhap|
Putin accepts Kim's invitation to visit N. Korea
By Lee Hyo-jin
A high-stakes summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signals a "new normal" of North Korea-Russia relations, according to analysts.
"Spurred by the Ukraine war and hostility toward the West, the two countries are deepening their relations to a level not seen after the collapse of the Soviet Union," said Cho Han-bum, a senior researcher at the state-run Korea Institute of National Unification.
"It is a 'new normal' of North Korea-Russia relations," he added.
How long the friendship will last depends on the course of the Ukraine war, Cho said.
The summit was held amid speculation that Pyongyang would provide ammunition and artillery shells to Moscow in return for Russia's technological support to develop its weapons and military satellites. While both countries have not disclosed details of the talks, Russia said the discussions included a range of "sensitive topics."
"It depends on how the war situation will develop. But if Russia becomes less desperate for munitions, relations with North Korea would no longer be a priority for Putin," Cho said.
On Thursday, Kim's bulletproof train was seen traveling toward the far eastern city of Khabarovsk, according to Russian media outlets, apparently on a tour around an aircraft plant at Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The far eastern city is located some 1,200 kilometers east of Vostochny Cosmodrome space center in Amur Oblast, where the summit was held the previous day.
Wrapping up their summit, the two leaders have kept the door open for another meeting, possibly in Pyongyang. During a reception held after the summit, Kim invited Putin for a reciprocal visit to North Korea, according to Pyongyang's state media.
|Newspapers reporting a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un are sold at a newsstand at a railway station in Seoul, Thursday. AP-Yonhap|
"At the end of the reception, Kim Jong-un courteously invited Putin to visit the DPRK at a convenient time," the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, Thursday. DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship," it added.
However, Putin's visit to North Korea is unlikely to happen in the near future, said Park No-byeok, a former ambassador to Russia.
"The invitation seems like a gesture often exchanged by heads of states during a summit," he told The Korea Times, adding that the invitation itself does not carry a big significance. "The visit is unlikely to occur within this year."
Cho shared a similar view, saying that there is little reason for Putin to travel to North Korea as he has already gained what he needs through Wednesday's summit. He also pointed out that Putin has rarely made trips abroad since the beginning of the war.
The Kremlin said there is no plan for Putin to visit Pyongyang.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday that Putin does not yet have plans to travel to North Korea, according to Russian media reports. But he stated that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Pyongyang as early as in October to meet his North Korean counterpart Choe Sun-hee.
The rapid development in relations between North Korea and Russia has raised the specter of a new Cold War surrounding the Korean Peninsula, with Seoul, Washington, Tokyo on one side and Pyongyang, Beijing and Moscow on the other.
But it remains to be seen how China will respond to the North Korea-Russia partnership. In recent months, Beijing has been refraining from emphasizing its ties with North Korea and Russia too overtly, in an apparent effort to maintain its relations with U.S.
"The Kim-Putin summit has revealed that the link between the two nations and China may weaken as some of the same common interests shared by North Korea and Russia is not of interest to China, especially the Ukraine war issue," said Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University.
Kim reaffirmed his support for Russia's war with Ukraine during the summit. But China has been trying to avoid any engagement in the war as it does not want to create enemies in Europe, Park said.