Putin invites leaders of two Koreas to Moscow

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Putin invites leaders of two Koreas to Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited the leaders of South and North Korea to an event it plans to hold next May, which could see the heads of the two countries come face-to-face for the first time.

Russian press agency Itar-tass quoted the president’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, who said Putin had sent an invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for a celebration to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Seoul was also asked to attend the event, according to a South Korean government official who wanted to remain anonymous.

“It is true that South Korea was also invited to the event,” the official said.

If both President Park Geun-hye and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attend the ceremony next year, there is a possibility the two leaders could meet for the first time since they both came into power.

Since 1995, Russia has hosted large-scale celebrations to mark the end of World War II every 10 years. It uses the event as an opportunity to bring the leaders of several countries together.

In 2005, Russia invited the leaders of 53 nations to mark the 60th anniversary.

Many invitees, including then-President of Korea Roh Moo-hyun, then-President of China Hu Jintao and then-Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi, flew to Russia for the event. But former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il did not.

This is the second consecutive invitation Putin has sent to South Korea for the event.

“President Park already paid a visit to Russia last year,” said the government official. “This time, the government needs to have a strategic approach to make a decision because the two Koreas were invited at the same time.”

If Kim Jong-un accepts the overture, it will be his first visit to Russia after he was sworn into power in 2011. The North sent second-in-command Choi Ryong-hae, the secretary of the Communist country’s ruling Workers’ Party, to Russia as an envoy last year, but Kim has never made the trip.

Given that Choi requested various bilateral, multi-level discussions back then, the request to come to the event in May seems timely for both Russia and North Korea.

BY HONG JOO-HEE, JUNG WON-YEOB [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]
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