Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit North Korea on Thursday at the invitation of counterpart Ri Yong-ho, according to the reclusive nation’s state news agency. The foreign ministry statement said Lavrov and the North’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ri will discuss the reclusive state’s nuclear programme, bilateral cooperation and other key international problems during the meeting.
It’s the second time in as many months that the pair will meet, after Ri flew to Moscow in May for talks with the Russian foreign minister. Lavrov at the time floated the possibility of a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sometime in the future.
Lavrov’s trip on Thursday comes amid preparations for a high-stakes summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim set for June 12. Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in return for sanctions and economic relief.
Pyongyang has a different view of denuclearisation and remains deeply worried that abandoning its deterrent would leave it vulnerable, especially while the US maintains a military presence in South Korea. Lavrov said he hoped the meeting between Kim and Trump would not degenerate into a trading of accusations.
News of Lavrov’s visit came after Putin called for restraint to keep Kim at the negotiating table for the Trump meeting. Russia is a traditional ally of North Korea, along with China. Putin said on Friday that finding a solution to the North Korea nuclear tensions is of great importance to Russia and North Korea’s sovereignty should be guaranteed.
[South China Morning Post]