North Korean leader Kim Jong Un cancelled his planned visit to Russia to attend the country’s World War II anniversary celebrations on May 9 because Moscow refused to comply with Pyongyang's request to provide him with “special treatment,” a South Korean newspaper reported on Friday.
A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced Thursday, citing “diplomatic channels” that the North Korean leader would not come to Russia due to some “internal North Korean issues.” While the spokesperson did not provide further details, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim cancelled his Russia visit after Moscow denied to give him special treatment over several other foreign dignitaries at the event.
“Without top-grade security, Kim would inevitably have become a freak show for the global press,” the Chosun Ilbo report said, adding that Kim Yong Nam, the state's nominal head and chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, is likely to visit Moscow on Kim’s behalf.
While some analysts believe that Kim decided to snub Russia fearing that being treated on an equal footing with other world leaders would damage his reputation at home, there is also speculation that the young North Korean dictator may have been reluctant to upset China by holding talks with Putin before meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, The Telegraph reported.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had announced earlier this year that Kim was expected to accept the Kremlin’s invitation to visit Russia in May, making his first foreign visit since taking power from his late father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011.
Meanwhile, an official in South Korea’s Defense Ministry said that there are no “abnormal signs” in North Korea that might have caused its leader to cancel his planned trip to Russia.
“We don't believe that any notable internal affairs are taking place in North Korea (that are) serious enough to cause Kim not to attend the event,” South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted the official as saying. “It would be a heavy burden for the young, inexperienced leader to attend a major public event involving many other leaders from around the world.”
Russia has invited 68 foreign dignitaries, including leaders of international organizations, to attend next week’s event. However, only about a third of them are expected to participate, Agence France-Presse reported.