Russian and North Korean defense chiefs hold historic talks
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has held talks with his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang on the sidelines of ceremonies marking the end of the Korean War, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday.
The ministry announced that Shoigu spoke with North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam while hailing traditionally close ties between the two nations and thanking his hosts for an eventful cultural program and warm welcome.
Shoigu remarked that his trip comes as North Korea celebrates “the 70th anniversary of the victory… in the Great Fatherland Liberation War,” adding that the Korean People’s Army prevailed “over a strong and cruel enemy.”
Shoigu was referring to the 1950-1953 conflict between North Korea, which was supported by the Soviet Union and China, and South Korea, which was backed by a coalition of Western allies.
The Korean War is considered one of the bloodiest conflicts in modern history with an estimated 3 million casualties on both sides. While Seoul and Pyongyang never signed a peace treaty, an armistice established a demilitarized zone near the 38th parallel, dividing the Korean peninsula in two.
Shoigu also touted the “rich history of cooperation” between North Korea and Russia, noting that extensive military exchanges, including visits by senior defense officials and personnel training, have helped “maintain peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.”
“I am convinced that today’s talks will help strengthen cooperation between our defense departments,” he added.
Before the talks with his North Korean counterpart, Shoigu laid a wreath at the Liberation Monument commemorating Red Army soldiers who died while liberating Korea from Japanese occupation in 1945. The Russian delegation also laid flowers at the monuments honoring late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il.
Russia and North Korea have traditionally enjoyed close ties dating back to the Soviet era, with Pyongyang’s foreign ministry saying last year that relations between the two “are now reaching new strategic heights” in the face of what it called “hegemonic actions of the United States and its satellites.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the visit of both Russian and Chinese delegations to North Korea, US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel expressed hope that they would use their influence on Pyongyang “to encourage them to refrain from threatening unlawful behavior” and play a part in defusing regional tensions.