North boosts its diplomacy effortsPyongyang is working on extending hands to China and Russia to bolster diplomatic ties with its traditional allies for the upcoming year.
To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, North Korea and Russia are already in the process of planning a joint commemorative event.
Jong Tong-hak, the director of press and information with the North Korean Foreign Ministry, confirmed on Tuesday in an interview by Russia’s Itar-Tass News Agency that the two nations are reviewing hosting a celebration for the anniversary.
Jong highlighted the friendship and cooperation of the two countries, notably the support for Russia’s policies.
“Crimea’s reunification with Russia is fully justified,” he said in the interview, relaying Pyongyang’s hope that Russia would stand up for North Korea’s interests in Ukraine amid an anti-Russian campaign launched by the United States and Western countries.
“The Russian people under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin will successfully confront foreign pressure and sanctions,” he added.
Earlier this month, President Putin extended an invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to come to Moscow this year to mark the 70th anniversary marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany, an event the country marks on May 9.
A joint commemorative event will only raise the likelihood of Kim visiting Russia for the first time since he took over as leader.
Russia has also extended invitations to the leaders of more than 50 countries, including South Korean President Park Geun-hye, U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
However, Unification Ministry officials here point out that it is too early to make any conclusions, as he may send a proxy to the event, like Kim Yong-nam, the chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the nominal head of state of the North.
Last month, Kim sent Choe Ryong-hae, a senior official of the Workers’ Party, as a special envoy to Russia, where he met with Putin and conveyed a letter from the North Korean leader that confirmed the intention to bolster two-way communication in 2015 and further contact in political, economic and military matters.
Pyongyang is also moving toward bolstering non-political areas of its relationship with longtime ally China, including sports, medicine and trade.
Chinese ambassador to North Korea Liu Hongcai and North Korean Vice Minister of Physical Culture and Sports Son Kwang-ho signed a sports exchange agreement for 2015 on Monday in Pyongyang.
Liu emphasized that sports exchange plays an important role in “consolidating and developing traditional friendly relationships [with Russia and North Korea].”
Through the agreement, the two countries collaborate in 18 sports exchange programs for football, shooting and judo, among others.
They also hold 19 training and exchange programs among China’s three northeastern provinces that border North Korea and Pyongyang’s sports associations.
BY JEONG WON-YEOB, SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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