Not to be outdone by the US, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit Russia in September, Russian-language media reported.
The report by Russian news agency RIA News was picked up by Reuters. RIA cited Ivan Melnikov, the deputy speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, as the source for the announcement. Last week, Bloomberg reported that Putin had sent a confidential message to Kim via Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Reports of the summit invitation followed allegations that North Korea’s detonation of its nuclear-testing site had been fabricated. Kim famously promised to close the site as a gesture of good faith toward Washington (though several reports by independent observers had previously claimed that the site was already unusable following a catastrophic tunnel collapse in the wake of a September nuclear test).
Of course, Putin isn’t the only world leader planning a meeting with Kim. Sky News reported on Sunday – citing the North’s state-run KCNA news agency -that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is planning a visit to the DPRK to meet with Kim.
A KCNA report quoted Mr Assad as saying: “I am going to visit the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) and meet Kim Jong Un.”
It said Mr Assad made the comments on Wednesday while receiving diplomatic credential documents from North Korean ambassador Mun Jong Nam.
There was no indication such a trip had been planned and Syria has not confirmed the comments.
The report also quoted Mr Assad saying he was sure Mr Kim would “achieve the final victory and realise the reunification of Korea”.
According to KCNA, Mr Assad said: “The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean Peninsula brought about recently by the outstanding political calibre and wise leadership of Kim Jong Un.”
If the Assad meeting goes ahead as planned, it would be the first time a world leader met with Kim in Pyongyang. North Korea and the Syrian regime have maintained strong relations during the Syrian civil war, as the North has been accused of helping arm the Syrian regime.
Kim has been in an uncharacteristically diplomatic mood since the beginning of the year. He has repeatedly met with Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, and has also signed a historic agreement with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Meanwhile, we pointed out earlier this morning that Kim has replaced North Korea’s top three military officials with younger officials who might be more amenable to Kim’s denuclearization agenda (and also less likely to stage a palace coup in his absence during talks with the US next week).