May 01, 2015 09:09
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will not attend the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Soviet Union's victory in World War II on May 9, the Kremlin said Thursday.
There had been a flurry of speculation surrounding the North's unofficial acceptance of the invitation, which would have been Kim's first overseas trip since taking power three years ago.
"He has decided to stay in Pyongyang," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Moscow had previously given the impression that Kim's attendance was a fait accompli, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov hinted at a summit with President Vladimir Putin.
Pyongyang has increasingly relied on Moscow as its last diplomatic ally as relations with China soured and talks with Tokyo stalled. Senior North Korean officials recently visited Moscow in preparation for Kim's visit.
But Peskov said Kim's last-minute change of heart has to do with unspecified "internal matters."
There is speculation that Kim decided to stay home because Pyongyang and Moscow failed to reach agreement on security protocol for him. Russia reportedly refused to comply with the North's request for special treatment given that there will be several other foreign dignitaries at the event.
Without top-grade security, Kim would inevitably have become a freak show for the global press.
"While welcoming about 30 leaders from around the world, Russia must have found it difficult to give special treatment to Kim," a senior government official here speculated. "Protocol arrangements would have been further complicated because Kim isn't nominally a head of state."
But another speculation is that Kim was worried that relations with China could get worse.
Prof. Kim Yong-hyun of Dongguk University said, "It would have been very awkward for Kim to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping face-to-face in Moscow for the first time."
Kim has never visited another country since he came to power in 2012 or met a foreign leader.
"Kim will be further isolated in the international community," a government source here said. "Who knows if he'll go to Beijing for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in September."
Instead, Kim Yong-nam, the eternal president of the Supreme People's Assembly and the North's constitutional head of state, will likely visit Moscow.
From South Korea, Yoon Sang-hyun, the presidential aide to President Park Geun-hye for political affairs, will attend the event.
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