On 25th July, a Russian delegation led by the Kremlin Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu arrived in North Korea, to join the country in their 70th anniversary celebratin of the end of the Korean War. It is reported that a Chinese delegation will also arrive later on. These visits mark the end of a dry spell of diplomatic visits to North Korea ever since they completely sealed their borders and cut off trade and diplomatic ties with other countries in light of the COVID pandemic. In the cut-off were included Russia and China, the strongest and some of the only allies of the nuclear armed state.
This self imposed boycott meant that not even essential supplies were being delivered into the country. As a result of this, North Korea was facing severe food shortages made worse by their strengthening nuclear programme as a defence from US activity in the bordering country of South Korea. With these visits however, many have hoped and speculated that this could mean changes in the border policy of the DPRK. The visits also come after floating images on the internet released by state media of North Korean citizens walking around without masks, the first time they have been able to do so since 2020.
The arrival of the Russian delegation in Pyongyang was shown to be a warmly welcomes one, as Mr Shoigu walked past a line of saluting soldiers holding a banner reading “Welcome, Comrade Defence Minister of the Russian Federation Sergei Shoigu!”. A similar welcome is expected for Li Hongzhong, leader of the Chinese delegation and part of the Chinese Communist Party’s central policymaking committee. Both of these countries are to attend the military parade of the anniversary, and both have historically backed North Korea especially against the United States.
The DPRK has found itself in the centre of media attention a lot recently, with increasingly powerful missile tests and strikes and the baffling capture of US army private Travis King who willingly walked into North Korean territory. Relations between the US and Russia and China have also hit sour patches recently. Russian relations with Washington have been in deterioration ever since the invasion and subsequent war in Ukraine, and although several meetings were held in efforts to better the relations between the US and China, most attempts were relatively futile as the issue of Taiwan remains a major point of contention.
These meetings then, between three highly armed and powerful enemies of the United States leave much room for concern as to what they may be discussing, especially considering the rare nature of any visits to Pyongyang and the fact that North Korea has remained completely silent over the incident with Prvt. King. Nevertheless, if it could indicate a changing border policy which would help with the food shortages and humanitarian issues within the country, the visits are a victory for all citizens of North Korea.
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