All is quiet as North cancels Moscow trip

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All is quiet as North cancels Moscow trip

South Korea’s National Defense Ministry said Friday that there seemed to be no signs of unusual activity in North Korea following Moscow’s announcement that the country’s young dictator had canceled his first overseas trip due to domestic issues.

“We see nothing special in North Korea,” an official from the ministry said.

The remarks were included a follow-up statement over the Kremlin’s announcement on Thursday that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un would not attend the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany, scheduled for May 9, due to internal affairs.

Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Kim would not attend the event because of “internal matters,” the Associated Press reported.

Observers anticipated Kim would visit Moscow after Russia invited him to the event last year.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, had previously said that the Kremlin had received a signal from Pyongyang that Kim was planning to attend.

Even up until this week, the South Korean government believed Kim would go to Russia.

Lee Byong-ho, the chief of the National Intelligence Service, even told lawmakers on Wednesday during a parliamentary Intelligence Committee meeting that Kim’s trip to Russia was anticipated.

The trip would have marked Kim’s debut on the international stage since inheriting power from his father in 2011.

Had Kim gone to Russia in an official capacity, it would have also been a landmark change for the decades-old alliance between North Korea and China. While Beijing has long served as Pyongyang’s most important ally, economically and militarily, their relations have been strained since the regime’s third nuclear test in February 2013, which China strongly opposed.

Citing North Korea’s personality cult around its leader, experts say that Kim had no intention to go to Russia from the beginning.

“North Korea insists that its leader is the only politician of the world,” said Chin Hui-gwan, a professor at Inje University. “If he meets leaders from other countries, his status as seen by the people in North Korea would be compromised, because that would make him just one of many politicians.”

BY NAM YOON-SEO [nam.yoonseo@joongang.co.kr]

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