KCNA in Dash to Release Russia Visit

Chris Green  |  2011-08-20 16:14
Comrade Kim Jong Il has begun an unofficial trip to Siberia and the Far East of Russia upon the invitation of Russian President Dimitry Medvedev, Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) reported earlier today.

The visit includes a meeting between the top leaders of the two countries, the KCNA report added, a meeting which was also confirmed in a short statement issued by the Kremlin, though neither revealed the details of Kims precise schedule or a list of those accompanying him.

Nevertheless, the speed of the North Korean report stands in stark contrast to that when Kim paid a visit to China in May this year, an event that was not reported by the North Korean media until he was on his way home.

This may be because revealing the visit in real time now allows the North Korean leader to focus on demonstrating to the international audience the strength of Russia-North Korea relations, his own capacity to lead and his confidence in domestic conditions even during the ongoing U.S.-South Korea Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercises.

However, it may equally be a reflection of the increasing difficulty North Korea suffers in trying to keep Kims activities outside the nations borders a secret. Certainly, while there was no official word from the Chinese media about his May visit until it was almost over, there were a great many indirect reports of his whereabouts.

Meanwhile, the visit also appears to represent the culmination of varied recent official contacts between Russia and North Korea.

Back in mid May, a Russian delegation led by Mikhail Fradkov, the head of Russian intelligence, held talks with Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang, whereupon Russia agreed to send North Korea 50,000 tons of food aid and the two sides apparently discussed economic projects.

At the time, an Interfax report cited a Russian diplomatic source as saying that the conversation had dealt with train connections between the two and the issue of a long-mooted gas pipeline connecting Russia to South Korea via the North.

That aid recently began to arrive, with President Medvedevs press attaché, Natalia Timakova cited in newspaper Kommersant as saying, The President communicated an order to the government calling for the provision of 50,000 tons of wheat flour to North Korea, and almost all measures pursuant to this order have been completed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also commented on the possibility of Kims visit after talks with his South Korean counterpart in Moscow earlier in August, saying that Kim had been invited to make the visit but that the details had yet to be worked out.

He also said with some confidence of the gas pipeline project, "If experts agree at the corporate level, all three capitals (Moscow, Pyongyang and Seoul) will provide political support.

Then, most recently, a letter sent by President Medvedev to Kim Jong Il upon the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Korean Peninsula on August 15th also called for greater cooperation between the two countries.

We have the desire to expand cooperation with Chosun in all areas of mutual concern, including plans made between Russia, the Peoples Democratic Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea in the fields of gas, energy and railways, President Medvedev noted, adding, Bringing this plan to fruition has important economic significance and will contribute to the security of Northeast Asia and Korean Peninsula denuclearization.

This is Kim Jong Ils third trip to Russia. The first, a nationwide trip in July, 2001, lasted 24 days, while the second, encompassing the Russian Far East in August, 2002, just 5.
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