Russian Foreign Minister Thanks North Korea for Supporting its War in Ukraine

Reuters file photo
The flag of North Korea is seen in Geneva, Switzerland, June 20, 2017.

SEOUL, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov thanked North Korea for supporting the country’s war efforts in Ukraine and pledged Moscow’s “complete support and solidarity” for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Russia’s foreign ministry said.

Lavrov arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday for meetings seen as setting the stage for a visit by President Vladimir Putin, who has stepped up cooperation with politically isolated North Korea.

Speaking at a reception hosted by the North on Wednesday, Lavrov said Moscow “deeply” values Pyongyang’s “unwavering and principled support” for Russia in the war, which it calls a “special military operation.”

“Likewise, the Russian Federation extends its complete support and solidarity with the aspirations of the DPRK,” Lavrov said, according to the transcript of the speech released on the Russian foreign ministry website. DPRK is the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

North Korean state media said Lavrov’s visit will mark a “significant occasion” in further consolidating relations between the countries.

Photos released by the Russian foreign ministry showed Lavrov was welcomed by North Korea’s foreign minister, Choe Son Hui, and greeted by people holding flowers and flags of the two countries upon arrival.

Lavrov’s two-day visit comes a month after North Korean leader Kim made a rare trip to Russia, during which he invited Putin to Pyongyang and discussed military cooperation.

This week’s visit will offer a “valuable opportunity” to review and outline practical steps for the implementation of the agreements reached between the two leaders, Lavrov said.

Russia’s TASS news agency had said Lavrov may also brief North Koreans on the results of Putin’s visit to China.

A U.S. think tank said on Tuesday that satellite images showed continued activity around a North Korean port near Russia, indicating at least six trips by sea between the two countries since late August.

The shipments between the port of Rajin and Russia’s Dunai are possibly related to the transfer of North Korean munitions to Russia, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said.

Separately, a North Korean cargo-passenger ferry that had carried foreign tourists from Japan or South Korea was seen at a drydock at the same port this month, most likely for maintenance, CSIS said.

It was not clear whether the vessel would be used to supplement trade activity between Russia and North Korea, it said.The White House last week said North Korea recently provided Russia with a shipment of weapons in what it called a troubling development.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said that the Western allegations were not based on evidence.

South Korea and the United States have expressed concern about increased exchanges between Russia and the North, and the allies have stepped up military drills together with Japan in response to the threat from North Korea.

On Thursday, the South Korean and U.S. navies joined four other countries, including Canada and Belgium, for anti-naval mine exercise off South Korea’s south coast, the defense ministry said.