China says Kim’s possible visit to Russia ‘conducive to peace’

January 22, 2015
Vladimir Putin, left, and Kim Jong-un. (Korea Times file)

Vladimir Putin, left, and Kim Jong-un. (Korea Times file)

BEIJING (Yonhap) — China said Thursday that a possible visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to Russia in May would be “conducive to regional peace and stability,” sounding a positive tone as Kim looks increasingly likely to choose Moscow, not Beijing, as his first destination for an unprecedented foreign trip.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow received a positive signal from Pyongyang after Russian President Vladimir Putin invited Kim to attend a May ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.

Asked about the Russian invitation and positive signal from North Korea, China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying replied, “North Korea and Russia are both friendly neighbors of China.”

“We believe that such engagement between the two countries is conducive to regional peace and stability,” Hua said.

North Korea is seeking to deepen both diplomatic and economic ties with Russia at a time when its political relationship with China remains frosty amid international pressure over its nuclear ambition and dismal human rights record.

Putin, who has been under intense pressure over the West’s response over Ukraine, is also eager to bolster ties with North Korea in an apparent effort against America’s pivot to Asia. Putin invited Kim to attend the May 9 ceremony during a meeting with Kim’s special envoy in November.

China is North Korea’s main economic benefactor, but political ties between the allies remain strained, particularly after the North’s third nuclear test in early 2013.

In what many analysts believe was a message to North Korea, Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to South Korea last year, breaking a long-standing tradition by Chinese heads of state of visiting Pyongyang before Seoul.

Xi was also invited to the May 9 ceremony in Russia.

Russia also invited South Korean President Park Geun-hye for the May 9 ceremony and South Korea’s presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters earlier in the day that no decision has been made yet over whether Park will accept the invitation.

North Korea has made no official comments about the Russian invitation, but a South Korean diplomatic source in Beijing told Yonhap News Agency last week that Pyongyang “gave a positive response to the Russian invitation for Kim Jong-un.”

The North’s positive stance over Russia’s invitation of Kim, who has not made a visit to a foreign country since taking the helm of the reclusive country in late 2011, appears to have prompted China to try to move toward warmer relations with Pyongyang recently, the source said on the condition of anonymity.

Chinese analysts say Xi may not hold a summit with Kim if North Korea continues to defy international calls to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Asked whether China would invite Kim this year, Hua replied, “I have no specifics to offer to you pertaining to the relationship between China and North Korea.”