North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will send a special envoy, Choe Ryong Hae, to Russia next week, both countries announced Friday, in a trip expected to focus on how to boost ties at a time when his country faces deepening diplomatic isolation.
The ministry said in a statement that Russia hopes to discuss trade and economic ties, the situation on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and other international issues. Choe’s trip also appears aimed at easing North Korea’s diplomatic isolation, said analyst Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute.
Choe, a senior Workers’ Party official, is considered as one of Kim’s close associates. He visited Beijing last year as a special envoy and told Chinese President Xi Jinping that North Korea would take steps to rejoin stalled nuclear disarmament talks.
Choe was also a member of a high-profile North Korean delegation that visited South Korea in early October and agreed to resume senior-level talks. The talks, however, haven’t moved forward because of tension over propaganda leaflets that South Korean activists send by balloon across the border into North Korea.
Russia and North Korea maintain cordial ties, but are not as close as they were during Soviet times, when Moscow provided significant aid and support to Pyongyang.
For North Korea, better ties with Russia could provide a much-needed economic boost because its ties with China are not as strong as they once were. Russia, for its part, has been seeking to bolster ties with North Korea amid a longtime effort to strengthen its role in Asia.