SEOUL: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un looks set to take an initial, tentative step onto the global stage with a visit in May to Russia – his first trip abroad since coming to power three years ago.
Kim may not have the physique or bearing of a shy debutante, but Moscow will be his diplomatic “coming out” and minutely scrutinised, especially with other world leaders, including China’s Xi Jinping, expected to be there.
The Kremlin confirmed on Wednesday that Kim would be among those attending ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Kim’s presence would set up some potentially intriguing meet and greets.
US President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye have also been invited, but have yet to confirm their attendance.
Obama is considered an unlikely participant given current tensions with Russia over Ukraine, while Park’s office said she is still considering unspecified scheduling conflicts.
A Kim meeting with virtually anyone would be news.
The young leader has received a number of high-ranking Chinese officials in Pyongyang, but the most prominent foreigner he has met in the past three years is former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman.
Formal talks with Vladimir Putin would mark Kim’s first summit, after a noted breach of protocol saw him snub the president of Mongolia, who visited Pyongyang in 2013.
Analysts differ over why Kim has delayed any overseas visit for so long.
Some suggest he was observing a traditional three-year mourning period for his father and late leader Kim Jong-il, which ended in December last year.
Others say his relative youth and inexperience required him to grow into his role as supreme leader at home before venturing abroad.
The North’s ruling Kim dynasty has never been big on overseas trips, with the exception of forays to traditional allies Beijing and Moscow.
Kim’s choice of Russia for his foreign debut would be a reflection of warming ties between Pyongyang and Moscow, especially on the trade and economic front. — AFP
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