North Korea accepts Russian invitation to Victory Day Parade

Russia has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to attend a May ceremony marking the end of World War II, in what would be Kim’s first foreign visit since taking the helm of the reclusive state in 2011, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun daily said Wednesday.

Kim would probably meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, as North Korea backs Russia in the Ukraine crisis and Moscow needs Pyongyang’s cooperation in boosting natural gas exports to South Korea, the newspaper said, quoting unnamed diplomatic sources.

It was unclear whether Kim would accept the invitation, the Asahi said.

But the North Korean leader accepted an invitation to visit Moscow, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday.

“North Korea is seeking to deepen both diplomatic and economic ties with Russia at a time when its political relationship with China remains chilly,” the agency said.

North Korea is seeking closer ties with Russia as it faces international criticism over accusations of human rights abuses and its nuclear program.

Putin held talks with Kim’s personal envoy last month and called for deeper ties with North Korea to improve regional security.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said North Korea was ready to resume stalled international talks on its nuclear program.

North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, Russia and the United States began talks in 2003 to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons, but they were suspended after Pyongyang tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009.

US President Barack Obama is not going to visit Russia any time soon, Mark Stroh, the National Security Council spokesman told the Sputnik news agency on Monday.

“At this time, the President has no plans to travel to Russia in the near future,” Stroh said.