Newspaper article International New York Times

Russia Seeks to Deepen Its Ties with North Korea

Newspaper article International New York Times

Russia Seeks to Deepen Its Ties with North Korea

Article excerpt

On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced an agreement to designate 2015 as a "Year of Friendship" with North Korea.

Russia's relations with many Western nations, including the United States, may be at their worst levels since the Cold War, but its relationship with North Korea is blooming faster than the famously lush flower beds of Moscow's Alexander Garden.

On Wednesday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced an agreement to designate 2015 a "Year of Friendship" with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is regarded by much of the world as a pariah state.

The announcement came six weeks after President Vladimir V. Putin's personal spokesman confirmed that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, would visit Moscow on May 9 to attend a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany. It is expected to be Mr. Kim's first trip abroad since assuming power in 2011.

Tellingly, news of the Year of Friendship came on the same day Berlin officials said that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, had declined Mr. Putin's invitation to attend the ceremony. The German government cited Russia's policies in Ukraine, where the Kremlin has annexed Crimea and backed violent separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, as the reason for her refusal to attend.

Asked about Ms. Merkel's decision, Mr. Putin's spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told Russian news services on Wednesday that he had no knowledge of it.

In its statement, the Foreign Ministry said that the Year of Friendship would also commemorate the 70th anniversary of North Korea's liberation, and was intended to bring relations "in the political, economic, humanitarian and other areas to a new level."

"In the Year of Friendship," the ministry said, "our countries are intensifying exchanges of delegations and contact information on an interagency and interregional level, to hold joint cultural events in Moscow, Pyongyang and other cities. …

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