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NK parliamentary speaker embarks on trip to Russia

All Headlines 18:45 June 22, 2015

SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) -- A delegation led by North Korea's parliamentary speaker on Monday left for Moscow, Pyongyang's media reported, in what could be a sign of deepening ties between the two nations.

Choe Thae-bok, chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly, the North's rubber-stamp parliament, kicked off a trip to Russia earlier in the day, the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

The KCNA did not specify details about his itinerary, including the reason for Choe's trip to Russia.

The visit comes as North Korea has been moving closer to Russia at a time when its relations with China, the North's traditional ally and economic benefactor, have been strained following the North's third nuclear test in 2013.

North Korea and Russia have been boosting their economic cooperation by declaring 2015 as a year of friendship. Both sides have agreed to increase exchanges of high-level officials this year.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made a last-minute cancellation to Russia's war commemorative events in May, but Moscow has said that Kim's decision would not affect their bilateral ties.

Kim's trip also comes as North Korea is suffering from what it called the worst drought in a century, spawning concerns about severe food shortages.

The KCNA also reported that a delegation consisting of key party officials, including Kang Sok-ju, a secretary handling international relations in the North's ruling Workers' Party, left for Cuba on Monday.

In September, Kang, a seasoned diplomat, made a rare visit to Europe as part of the North's efforts to break its isolation.

Last week, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong made a trip to African countries.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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