November 18, 2014 09:57
Choe Ryong-hae, the secretary of North Korean Workers Party believed to be the second most powerful man in the reclusive state, visits Russia on Nov. 17-24.
Choe left Pyongyang on Monday, but had to turn back shortly after takeoff due to undisclosed problems with the fuselages. He finally took off in the late evening.
There is speculation that he forms the vanguard for a state visit by leader Kim Jong-un, who is so isolated internationally that he has not even been able to visit long-standing ally China.
In May last year, Choe visited Beijing to sound out the possibility of a summit, but to no avail.
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, "The North seems to be pushing for a summit with Russia to express its displeasure with China and pressure Beijing into restoring relations with the North."
But other experts feel it is unlikely that Russian president Vladimir Putin will agree to meet Kim.
"It won't be easy for Kim to leave Pyongyang amid internal instability," said Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification. "Putin may also decide that it wouldn't be in interest to meet Kim at a time when he himself is under fire for invading Ukraine."
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