North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was officially invited to attend Russia's World War II Victory Day celebrations, will not be seen at the event on Saturday. Instead, the country’s nominal head of state, will participate in the ceremonies marking the 70th anniversary of the victory of Russian forces over Nazi Germany.
Pyongyang's official KCNA news agency reportedly said Monday that Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, will represent the North Korean leader.
Russia had announced last week that Kim Jong Un was one of 26 world leaders, who had accepted the invitation to be a part of the celebrations, but later said he would not be able to travel to Russia due to unspecified “internal matters.” However, had Kim Jong Un agreed to the invitation, it would have been his first trip overseas since he came to power in 2011, according to the Associated Press.
South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported that Kim Jong Un chose to stay in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang because “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.” The report added: “Without top-grade security, Kim would inevitably have become a freak show for the global press.”
A South Korean government official told the paper: "While welcoming about 30 leaders from around the world, Russia must have found it difficult to give special treatment to Kim," adding: "Protocol arrangements would have been further complicated because Kim isn't nominally a head of state."
The newspaper also speculated that it would have been quite awkward for Kim Jong Un to have met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow for the first time, instead of Beijing, as Pyongyang relies heavily on China for its survival. However, the speculations were disregarded by Kim Myong-chol, executive director of the Centre for North Korea-US Peace and a mouthpiece for the North Korean regime, the Telegraph reported.
"North Korea has never stated that Mr Kim will go to Moscow, so this is not news," Kim Myong-chol said, according to the Telegraph, adding: "Him going there was wishful thinking on the part of Russia." The report added that the North Korean leader may visit China in September for the country's events marking the end of war. However, Kim Myong-chol reportedly said, "But Xi must come to Pyongyang in August to attend North Korea's 70th anniversary events first."