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(LEAD) Senior N. Korean official holds talks with Russian diplomats in Moscow

All News 20:02 November 20, 2019

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL/MOSCOW, Nov. 20 (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean diplomat held talks with Russian foreign ministry officials in Moscow on Wednesday, the second day of her trip seen as an effort to step up bilateral cooperation amid an impasse in Pyongyang's nuclear talks with Washington.

First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, along with Im Chon-il, senior diplomat in charge of Russian affairs, arrived in Moscow on Tuesday to attend the inaugural strategic dialogue between Pyongyang and Moscow, a newly-minted forum to discuss bilateral and international issues.

At around 10:35 a.m., Choe and other North Korean officials were spotted entering the guesthouse of Russia's foreign ministry in downtown Moscow. Before their arrival, Russian Ambassador-at-Large Oleg Burmistrov entered the guesthouse.

Choe's trip appears aimed at strengthening Pyongyang's diplomatic hand in its nuclear negotiations with the United States through closer cooperation with Russia. She is considered North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's key nuclear strategist.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov told reporters that Choe came to attend the strategic dialogue at the invitation of Russian First Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Titov.

"We will discuss the entire spectrum of international issues, regional problems, bilateral relations," Morgulov was quoted as saying by Russia's TASS news agency.

"It is a kind of a view from the strategic perspective on international relations, the regional agenda, a kind of coordination," he added.

Her trip comes as Pyongyang has been ramping up its demand for Washington to drop its hostile policy against its regime and come up with an acceptable proposal before a resumption of denuclearization talks between the two countries.

Denuclearization talks have made little headway since the breakdown of the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in February over differences in how to compensate for Pyongyang's denuclearization steps.

The two countries held working-level talks in Sweden last month for the first time since the summit but made little headway.

On Sunday, South Korea and the U.S. announced the postponement of combined military exercises to support diplomatic efforts to denuclearize the North in an "act of goodwill" aimed at bolstering diplomacy over North Korea. Hours later, Trump tweeted a message to Kim urging him to "act quickly" and "get the deal done."

Despite such reconciliatory gestures, the North has ramped up its demand for Washington to make a bold decision before the end of this year, a deadline earlier set by its leader Kim.

Observers see Choe's visit to Russia this week as intended to strengthen Pyongyang's ties with Moscow and put pressure on Washington to come to the negotiation table with a changed attitude.

Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexandre Machegora (L) sees North Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui off at Sunan Airport in the North's capital prior to her departure for Moscow on Nov. 18, 2019, in this photo captured from the Facebook account of the Russian mission. The embassy confirmed Choe's trip but did not elaborate on its purpose. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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