Days before Kim Jong Un is set to meet US President Donald Trump in Singapore, the North Korean leader is revealing plans to meet yet another leader – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Assad will visit Kim in North Korea, the latter country’s state news agency KCNA said Sunday. The report did not specify a date for the meeting, and Syrian state media has so far not reported on the planned visit.
If the meeting takes place in Pyongyang, it would be the first time a world leader has visited Kim in the capital.
The announcement comes at a time of increased international diplomacy for Kim, who in recent months has met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries, caught an eye-catching train to China for a meeting with President Xi Jinping, and last week met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Pyongyang.
Trump has said he will meet with Kim on June 12 , and on Friday with a former North Korean spy chief – the highest-level North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years.
In anticipation of the meeting with the North Korean leader, Assad received his credentials from the nation’s ambassador Wednesday, according to KCNA.
The report quoted Assad as saying: “The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean peninsula brought about recently by the outstanding political caliber and wise leadership of HE (His Excellency) Kim Jong Un.”
“I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail,” it added.
The report referred to the close ties between the two countries, and quoted Assad as saying Syria would “fully support all policies and measures” of the North Korean leadership.
A tale of two dictators
Ties between North Korea and Syria have remained friendly for decades, with Assad’s father Hafez meeting the founder of the North Korean regime, Kim Il Sung, in the 1970s.
In 2015, the Syrian government even named a park in Damascus after Kim Il Sung. At the park’s inauguration, Syria’s deputy foreign minister called the North Korean founder “a historic ruler and leader, famous for his struggle to liberate and build his country.”
As client states of the Soviet Union, both countries have developed strong military ties.
North Korea has for years been suspected of providing Syria with advanced Scud missiles and the technology to produce them.
The governments also have a history of sending each other messages of solidarity and support.
In April last year, following a suspected Syrian chemical attack on civilians, Kim sent Assad a congratulatory message to mark the founding anniversary of Syria’s ruling party.
“The Syrian government and people are reliably defending the independence and security of the country, resolutely smashing the acts of aggression of all the hostile forces and meeting their challenges under your correct leadership,” the message said, according to North Korean state news agency KCNA.
CNN’s Sandi Sidhu reported from Hong Kong, Sheena McKenzie wrote in London. Zahra Ullah and Ivan Watson contributed to this report.