North Korean Foreign Minister Embarks on Russia Visit Amid Rising Military Ties

Seoul, South Korea – North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui has embarked on an official visit to Russia, state media reported on Monday. This trip comes amidst growing military cooperation between North Korea and Russia.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Choe is scheduled to be in Russia from Monday to Wednesday upon the invitation of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Her departure was observed at the airport on Sunday by Vice Foreign Minister Pak Chol-jun and Russia's Charge d'Affaires ad Interim Vladimir Topeha. This visit is seen as a reciprocal gesture following Lavrov's trip to Pyongyang in October.

The visit raises speculations, particularly amid allegations that North Korea has supplied weapons to Russia for its conflict in Ukraine, in exchange for technical support for Pyongyang's own weapons programs. However, both Pyongyang and Moscow have so far denied any arms transactions.

The White House, last week, stated that Russia had recently launched additional North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine, following similar incidents on December 30 and January 2.

A key topic of interest is whether Choe's discussions with Lavrov will include plans for Russian President Vladimir Putin's potential visit to North Korea. Putin had accepted an invitation from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their summit at Russia's Vostochny spaceport in September last year. Although a similar invitation was extended in April 2019 during their first summit in Vladivostok, the Kremlin did not confirm, and Putin did not visit North Korea at that time.

This meeting comes in the context of North Korea's leader pledging to reinforce solidarity with countries opposing the United States at a year-end party meeting. North Korea aims to strengthen its ties with China and Russia, countering the enhanced security cooperation among Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo.

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