On October 4, a high-level meeting was held in Inchon between a high-level delegation from North Korea led by Hwang Pyong So, the top political officer for the Korean People’s Army, and South Korean Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae and national security director Kim Kwan-jin. The two sides agreed to hold a new round of high-level consultations in late October/ early November.
What is generally not reported is that last week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, from the UN General Assembly rostrum, called for reunification of the two Koreas according to the confederation formula, proposed by Kim Il Sung in the late 1980s. This is the only way to prevent war and guarantee peace, the minister said.
Also, according to the Guardian, following the General Assembly meeting, North Korea’s foreign minister arrived in Moscow on Sept. 30 to begin a 10-day visit with a bilateral agenda that includes fighting the “heroisation of Nazism,” road safety, and Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Ri Su-yong met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Wednesday, October 1, before embarking on a trip around Russia’s far-eastern regions aimed at boosting economic cooperation between the two countries.
According to Itar-Tass, Ri Su-yong and Lavrov discussed ways to bring the trade turnover between the two countries up to $1 billion. The sides will review the implementation of large-scale investment projects, including the functioning of the intermodal transshipment complex at the port of Rajin, as well as new programs being implemented under the “Russian equipment and investments in exchange for Korean mineral raw materials” formula.
Ri’s trip to Russia could result in closer cooperation with North Korea. According to Russian agencies, the visit is the first by a North Korean minister since Kim Jong-un assumed power in Pyongyang more than two years ago.
There have been a number of lower-level visits between the two countries over the past year, with a number of parliamentary delegations making trips in both directions as both sides seek closer ties.
Prior to the visit, Alexander Lukashevich, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman, said Lavrov and Ri would discuss increasing political dialogue and economic cooperation between the two countries, as well as the situation on the Korean peninsula and Southeast Asia as a whole.
The foreign ministers would work on creating a new basis for bilateral relations, signing a range of documents on cooperation in areas ranging from culture to the economy, Lukashevich said.
There would be an open discussion about the resumption of six-way talks on the North Korean nuclear program.
Lukashevich said the two countries had already worked together at the UN on issues such as preventing the heroisation of Nazism, human rights, information security, and road safety.
After visiting Moscow, Ri was to travel to Russia’s Far East, including Sakhalin Island and the Primorsky region, which has a small land border with North Korea.
Since his appointment this year, Ri has made a number of foreign trips, including to Iran. Last week he became the first top North Korean diplomat for more than a decade to attend the UN General Assembly in New York.