China would welcome Kim Jong-Un visit to Moscow: govt

22nd January 2015, Comments 0 comments

China would welcome a visit by Kim Jong-Un to Moscow, a government spokeswoman said Thursday, amid speculation that the North Korean leader could make his international debut in the Russian capital later this year.

May 9 marks the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, and around 20 foreign leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping, are expected to attend a commemoration event in Moscow.

Asked Wednesday about the possible attendance of Kim Jong-Un, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov burst out laughing before telling reporters that North Korea had given a "positive" response to Moscow's invitation.

"As a first signal, it was a positive one," Lavrov said.

If confirmed, the visit would be Kim's first foreign trip since taking power just over three years ago following the death of his father, Kim Jong-Il.

At a regular briefing Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that North Korea and Russia are "both friendly neighbours of China and they have both made sacrifices and great contributions" during the Second World War.

A possible Kim visit to Russia, she said, would be "conducive to regional peace and stability".

Hua did not provide further details on Xi's schedule, or on any plans for either a visit by the Chinese leader to North Korea, or by Kim to Beijing.

A trip to Moscow would signal Kim's desire to reduce his country's dependence on China, which remains Pyongyang's main ally, diplomatic protector and economic buttress.

But Xi and Kim have kept their distance since each assumed power and the Chinese leader's first visit as head of state to the Korean peninsula was to the capitalist South last year, rather than the North.

A potential Kim visit could also have broader repercussions for Russia and Asia.

Georgy Toloraya, head of Korean Programmes at the Institute of Economy at the Russian Academy of Science, said opinion was divided on the benefits to Russian President Vladimir Putin of hosting the leader of a nation viewed by most as a nuclear and human rights pariah.

"Kim's exchanging handshakes with Putin would surely give Putin's critics a pretext for some unpleasant comparisons," he wrote on the North Korean-watching website 38 North.

"But others can say that the West's opinion of Putin is so bad right now that he has nothing to lose by getting closer with Kim," he added.

It was unclear to what extent Kim's attendance would influence South Korean President Park Geun-Hye's decision to accept or decline Moscow's invitation.

In her annual New Year address this month, Park said she would be willing to hold a summit with Kim without pre-conditions, and Kim has also held out the possibility of "highest-level" talks between the two rivals.

But senior government officials in Seoul admit the chances of such a meeting are remote given the difficulty the Koreas have in organising talks at any level.

© 2015 AFP

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