Kim Jong-un has cancelled plans to attend Russian commemorations of the end of World War II, a Kremlin spokesman said on Thursday. Kim had been expected to attend a military parade in Moscow marking the 70th anniversary of WWII, a holiday known as Victory Day across the former Soviet Union. It would have been the North Korean leader’s first trip abroad since assuming control of the country.
Xinhua quoted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying that Kim “cited interior affairs in his country as the reason for his absence.” Peskov denied that the cancellation had anything to do with pressure other countries may have placed on Moscow to withdraw its invitations to the controversial North Korean leader. “That is certainly not the case,” he said.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in mid-April that she would not be attending the May 9 ceremony. However, Korean scholars speaking to the Korean Times said the tensions between the West and Russia over the Ukraine situation had more to do with Park’s decision than Kim’s plans to attend.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, has confirmed plans to attend the events in Moscow, and Putin will attend similar commemorations in China. That led to speculation that the first ever meeting between Xi and Kim could come in Moscow on the sidelines of the WWII commemorations. Xi has yet to visit North Korea, despite a trip last summer to Seoul, and Kim has not visited China.
As for domestic issues that might be keeping Kim away from Russia, recent media reports indicate that the young leader has ordered the execution of 15 top officials so far this year. According to Yonhap News, South Korean legislators who attended a closed-door briefing from the National Intelligence Service were told that Kim had ordered the executions of officials who challenged his policies. NIS believes the executions are Kim’s way to trying to maintain control over the North Korean government.