Russian delegation led by defense minister to visit North Korea

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A Russian delegation led by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will visit North Korea this week, state media agency KCNA reported on Tuesday, joining a Chinese group as the first such public visitors to the country since thestart of the pandemic.

The delegations will visit to celebrate the 70th anniversary of “Victory Day” on Thursday in Pyongyang, KCNA reported, with Chinese Communist Party politburo member Li Hongzhong leading the group from his country.

Russia’s defense ministry, whose delegation will visit from Tuesday to Thursday, said it had been invited by its North Korean counterpart and would attend the Victory Day events.

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“This visit will contribute to strengthening Russian-North Korean military ties and will be an important stage in the development of co-operation between the two countries,” the ministry said in a statement.

North Korea closed its border in early 2020 to all trade and diplomatic exchanges, even with its main economic and political partners China and Russia. State media report did not say whether the visits will mark any change in policy.

The anniversary events are expected to include a major military parade in North Korea’s capital.

China asserted on Monday that it “strictly” implements UN sanctions on North Korea, reacting to a letter from the Group of Seven, European Union and others that urged Beijing to stop Pyongyang from evading the measures by using Chinese waters.

China’s exports to North Korea in June were eight times higher than a year before, when the secretive state was reporting tens of thousands of COVID-19 cases per day and had shut its border.

The United States, meanwhile, has accused North Korea of providing military aid to Russia for the war in Ukraine, a claim that both Pyongyang and Moscow deny.

Russia and North Korea, who both have frosty ties with the United States, have long enjoyed friendly ties with each other even as Moscow has tried to help broker a deal on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

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