Top North Korea envoy in Moscow for Putin talks
A special envoy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Moscow on Monday for talks with President Vladimir Putin as Pyongyang seeks allies to fend off a UN resolution calling for a probe into crimes against humanity.
Choe Ryong-Hae, who holds the rank of vice marshal and is the former director of the North Korean army's powerful political bureau, is set to meet Putin on Tuesday and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday.
His eight-day visit to Moscow, the third by a senior North Korean official this year, comes ahead of a vote Tuesday on a United Nations resolution calling for a war crimes probe against the reclusive state over its vast network of prison camps.
The resolution calls for the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court, although Russia and China are widely expected to veto such a move.
Choe's visit comes as Russia is facing increasing diplomatic isolation over its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Russia is seeking to expand ties with North Korea and is eyeing a project worth about $25 billion (20 billion euros) to overhaul the Stalinist country's railway network in return for access to mineral resources.
In a close relationship dating from the Soviet era, Russia recently wrote off North Korean debts and says it wants trade turnover with Pyongyang to reach $1 billion by 2020.
While in Russia, Choe will visit Moscow and two cities in far eastern Russia, Vladivostok and Khabarovsk, the Russian foreign ministry said.
Moscow said the visit was aimed at "raising the level of political dialogue and ways of activating trade and economic relations.
"Russia said it would reiterate demands for North Korea to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and scrap its nuclear weapons programme.
"First of all (on the agenda) is the nuclear programme, or to be precise, the prospect of the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula," Russia's deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to the state-run TASS news agency.
A Russian foreign ministry source told Interfax news agency: "There can only be a political and diplomatic solution.
Any other option is fraught with the risk of catastrophic consequences for the situation in the region.
"Six-country talks on aid-for-denuclearisation involving Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, the United States and Japan have been at a standstill since 2009.
© 2014 AFP