December 22, 2014 12:28
Russia has invited President Park Geun-hye and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany in the World War II on May 9 next year.
If Kim attends it would mark his debut on the international stage, but whether the leaders of the two Koreas will actually meet remains to be seen.
Last month, Kim sent his de facto No. 2 Choe Ryong-hae to Moscow as his envoy to discuss a summit. Kim has not been able to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping amid deteriorating relations with Beijing and desperately needs some kind of international support.
Yun Duk-min of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy said there is also a chance that Kim will take advantage of the invitation to bolster his leadership stature for domestic consumption.
Park is expected to accept. One diplomatic source said, "There is very little reason to turn down Moscow's invitation given the chance of improving inter-Korean relations and the importance of ties with Russia."
The source said the likeliest outcome is a brief chat between the two Korean leaders.
But most North Korea experts say the chances of Kim braving the event, which will draw leaders from around the world, are slim.
"Gatherings of global leaders do not guarantee privacy and Kim Jong-un's remarks would be reported around the world," said Lee Soo-seok of the Institute for National Security Strategy. "Events like that also pose risks to Kim's personal security."
Neither North Korean founder Kim Il-sung nor his son Kim Jong-il ever attended a gathering of international leaders.
Experts believe the North Korean leader will choose to remain behind the scenes and avoid exposing himself to global scrutiny.
Nam Sung-wook at Korea University says he may go to Russia earlier to have a closed-door meeting with the Russian president and return home without attending the Victory Day ceremony.
There is also a strong likelihood that many global leaders would refuse to be photographed with Kim and cut him dead, so he is unlikely to face up to the embarrassment.
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