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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov accepts invitation to visit North Korea

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Pyongyang after accepting a formal invitation from the country's to...

Posted: Apr 10, 2018 2:27 PM
Updated: Apr 10, 2018 2:27 PM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Pyongyang after accepting a formal invitation from the country's top diplomat, the latest in a series of outreaches by North Korea.

"We are very happy about the invitation which we have received to visit Pyongyang," Lavrov said Tuesday after a meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho in Moscow.

But there is no word on a possible future summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Lavrov said while there had been no discussions about either leader visiting the other's capital during his talks with Ri, both Kim and Putin "regularly exchange statements."

The long-time Russian foreign minister has previously visited Pyongyang, including in 2009 during an earlier round of negotiations on North Korean disarmament.

No date has been announced as yet for the Russian diplomat's return visit.

During a meeting with Ri on Tuesday, Lavrov said Moscow wanted to develop "good neighborly relations" with Pyongyang, according to Russian state media TASS.

"October will mark 70 years since our countries established diplomatic relations and now our colleagues are agreeing on a program of measures to celebrate this jubilee," he said, according to TASS, adding that Russia would continue "humanitarian assistance" to North Korea.

Lavrov added that Moscow wanted to help with trilateral projects alongside both North and South Korea "as far as (Seoul) are ready for such cooperation."

The invitation to the Russian foreign minister comes amid a diplomatic outreach by Pyongyang ahead of a series of historic summits on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim is scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27, the first meeting between the leaders of the divided Koreas in a decade.

Meanwhile, US officials said a meeting between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump is being planned for late May or early June.

In a surprising move ahead of the summits, Kim traveled personally to Beijing in a secret visit to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 27, the first time the young ruler has met a Chinese leader publicly.

Ri's visit to Moscow this week included talks on "resolving the situation on the Korean Peninsula," according to TASS, less than a month after he paid an unannounced visit to Sweden.

"The North Korean regime likely wants to show that not only does it have support but make a show of building support from these high-level visits," retired US ambassador William Courtney told CNN earlier.

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