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N. Korean defense chief`s visit to Russia

Posted April. 30, 2001 13:37,   


The recent visit by North Korean Minister of the People`s Armed Forces Kim Il-Chul to Russia reopened military cooperation between North Korea and Russia that had been in virtual abeyance for more than 10 years. Russian diplomatic sources said it cleared the way for rescheduling the visit of North Korea`s National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-Il to Moscow. The visit originally had been slated for Apr. 17, but had since been postponed indefinitely.

Two agreements for military cooperation were signed with Russia by the visiting North Korean defense minister. Military exchanges including the training of North Korean officers in Russia are likely to resume shortly. The more important of the two accords reached Apr. 27 concerned bilateral collaboration in munitions industry and military technology. It specified the types and conditions of Russian arms sale to North Korea.

North Korea has been requesting Russia to supply Russian hardware to North Korea on preferential terms -- at prices lower than the going international prices or on long-term credit. Reports say that Pyongyang asked Moscow to provide even offensive weapons and allow licensed production of crack MIG fighters.

The Russian response has been rather cautious on the grounds that North Korea might not be able to pay for the arms, delivery of offensive weapons might strain relations with the United States, and brisk arms deals with North Korea could militate against its increased sales of military equipment to South Korea.

It is yet to be known how much Russia complied with the request of North Koreans. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Clebanov said the latest accord with North Korea aims to modernize aging Russian arms already in North Korean possession and it would not compromise Moscow`s relations with Seoul.

Pyongyang`s evaluation of the results of Kim`s visit to Russia would be a decisive factor in rescheduling the proposed visit of the North Korean strongman. North Korea should hasten Kim`s visit to Russia if it believes the agreements with Russia were satisfactory, a diplomatic source in Moscow said Sunday.

Kim Ki-Hyun kimkihy@donga.com