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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea's Kim hosts Russia's Defense Minister Shoigu

July 27, 2023

Russia's Sergei Shoigu and officials from China arrived in Pyongyang to attend activities commemorating the 70th anniversary of the armistice in the Korean War.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, front right, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, front left, visit an arms exhibition in Pyongyang
Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event with Kim Jong Un and Russia's defense ministerImage: KCNA/AP Photo/picture alliance

North Korea's 70th anniversary of Victory Day celebration this week is being marked by the presence of both the Russian defense minister and a high-level Chinese delegation as special guests, reported the state media. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday gave Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu a tour of a defense exhibition that featured banned ballistic missiles. 

North Korean state media (KCNA) reported that Shoigu hailed Pyongyang's military as the "most powerful" in the world. 

It added that both countries have tightened their "strategic and traditional" relations. 

The Chinese delegation is led by Politburo member Li Hongzhong, vice chairman of the standing committee of the country's National People's Congress.

The visits are seen as a notable diplomatic engagement with the isolated nation.

How are North Korea's relations with Russia and China?

Russia continues to be one of North Korea's staunchest allies, fostering friendly relations. Kim Jong Un has shown unwavering support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, allegedly providing weapons to Moscow, according to Washington.

Beijing, despite being North Korea's most important ally and economic benefactor, saw the resumption of some trade last year with Pyongyang after a strict self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020. Beijing's new envoy also took up his position this year.

Meanwhile, relations between the two Koreas are currently at one of their lowest points, with diplomatic talks stalled between Pyongyang and Seoul and Kim ramping up weapons development.

Tensions in the peninsula have also risen after a US soldier ran across the border into North Korea last week. US-South Korean military drills have also angered Pyongyang.

What is North Korea celebrating?

As the state media reports, Pyongyang intends to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, known as "Victory Day" in North Korea, in a "grand manner that will go down in history."

The commemoration will feature a large-scale military parade and other events.

Satellite images suggest that both soldiers and civilians have been undergoing training for the parade for several months, according to Seoul-based website NK News.

During the event, North Korean leader Kim's nuclear-capable missiles and other military advances will be on display.

ss/fb (AFP, Reuters)