N. Korea sends delegation to Russia sports forum

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SEOUL, North Korea said Tuesday it has sent a delegation of sports officials to attend a forum in the Russian city of Perm in another exchange between the two countries seeking to strengthen military ties.

A delegation led by Sports Minister Kim Il-guk departed the previous day to attend the 11th International Sports Forum, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said in a short dispatch, without providing further details.

Kim recently led the North's delegation at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, which marked the North's return to international multisport competition after a five-year absence.

The delegation's trip comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is set to make an official visit to North Korea for two days starting Wednesday, following a rare summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin last month.

Lavrov is widely expected to meet with his North Korean counterpart, Choe Son-hui, to discuss ways to bolster bilateral cooperation, including preparations for Putin's possible reciprocal visit to Pyongyang.

"North Korea appears to be pushing for exchange in the field of sports as North Korea and Russia seek cooperation following their summit," an official at Seoul's unification ministry told reporters on condition of anonymity.

North Korea and Russia have been seeking to strengthen military ties amid persistent speculation on their suspected arms deal, reinforced by reports on Pyongyang's delivery of military equipment and munitions to Russia in recent weeks.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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