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Sergei Lavrov meets Kim Jong Un, vows support

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to strengthen cooperation between the countries amid rising tensions with Western countries.

Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported that Lavrov’s meeting with Kim lasted more than an hour. The Russian Foreign Ministry said Lavrov, who arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday, had earlier thanked North Korea for Russia’s support and promised Kim “full support and solidarity” from Moscow. Lavrov visited North Korea ahead of a visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has stepped up co-operation with politically isolated North Korea.

Lavrov said on Wednesday at a DPRK [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] reception that Russia appreciated Pyongyang’s “unwavering and principled support” for Russia. He claimed, according to the transcript of the speech released on his ministry’s website:

Likewise, the Russian Federation extends its complete support and solidarity with the aspirations of the DPRK.

Lavrov said at a news conference after talks with North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui that increased military activity by the US and its allies Japan and South Korea was a cause for concern, Russian state news agency RIA reported.

The US and South Korean navies, along with the Philippines, Canada, New Zealand and Belgium, conducted a sea mine drill off the coast of South Korea on Thursday.

South Korea’s military said a US B-52 bomber made a rare landing in South Korea on Thursday to emphasise the two countries’ alliance against the growing nuclear threat from North Korea. Sergei Lavrov said North Korea, China and Russia were in turn doing their best to ease tensions in the region.

The Russian foreign minister’s visit is an important event in strengthening relations between China and Russia, North Korean media said. Photos published by the Russian Foreign Ministry show people carrying flowers and flags of the two countries greeting Lavrov upon his arrival.

Lavrov’s two-day visit comes a month after North Korean leader Kim’s visit to Russia, during which the heads of state discussed military co-operation and then Kim invited Putin to Pyongyang. Russia’s TASS news agency reported that Lavrov might also brief North Korean leaders on the results of Putin’s visit to China later this week.

A US think tank released a statement on Tuesday saying that satellite imagery showed continued activity around a North Korean port near Russia, indicating that there have been at least six trips by sea between the two countries since late August.

The Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) suggests that shipments between the port of Rajin and Russia’s Dunai may be linked to North Korean munitions shipments to Russia.

Last week, the White House claimed that North Korea had recently transferred a shipment of weapons to Russia. However, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the West’s accusations were groundless.

The US and South Korean authorities have expressed concern over growing military cooperation between the DPRK and Russia, and the allies have stepped up military exercises with Japan in response to the threat from North Korea. In a briefing on Thursday, a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said South Korea urged Russia to respect UN resolutions when exchanging views with North Korea.

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