Russia hosts North Korean foreign minister to strengthen ties
North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui is in Russia for talks with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, focusing on deepening the countries' economic, political, and military connections.
Choe arrived in Moscow on Sunday, where officials from the Russian Foreign Ministry and the North Korean embassy greeted her, as reported by state news agency KCNA on Monday.
Amid its increasing international isolation due to the Ukraine conflict, Russia values its relationship with North Korea more than ever, according to analysts.
North Korea, while experiencing fluctuating relations with Russia since the peak of the Soviet Union, benefits from Moscow's search for allies. On Sunday, North Korea tested a new solid-fuel hypersonic missile, prompting condemnation from the United States, South Korea, and Japan.
Choe's visit, scheduled to last until Wednesday, occurs as the United States and its allies accuse Moscow of using North Korean ballistic missiles in Ukraine, a claim both Moscow and Pyongyang deny.
The two nations have pledged to strengthen cooperation in various areas and have held several high-level meetings since last year, including a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Russia.
Artyom Lukin of Russia's Far Eastern Federal University suggests the visit could cover a range of issues and indicates a possible visit by Putin to Pyongyang this year.
Despite North Korea's frequent missile launches, Lukin believes the latest test is likely unrelated to Choe's visit.
A notable sign of strengthening ties was Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's visit to Pyongyang in July, where he toured a weapons exhibit featuring North Korea's banned ballistic missiles.
Following Shoigu's visit, Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia, marking his first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Lukin noted North Korea's growing insecurity compared to South Korea, with Russia being the only power capable of enhancing Pyongyang's military-strategic security.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova confirmed the visit includes negotiations but did not provide details. She anticipated Western speculation, asserting Russia's right to engage with North Korea in compliance with international law.
Choe, in October, dismissed the United States and its allies' criticism of North Korea's suspected arms deliveries to Russia as politicized and distorted. She vowed a "new higher phase" in Moscow-Pyongyang ties.
Russia and North Korea have not directly addressed the allegations of Moscow using North Korean missiles in Ukraine.
Anthony Rinna, a Korea-Russia relations specialist at Sino-NK, notes Russia's increasing willingness to defy sanctions against Pyongyang and a diminished interest in multilateral efforts to curb North Korean provocations. Rinna adds that the Kremlin does not see North Korea as a direct threat to Russia.