SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will travel to Iran next week, according to Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency, but South Korean press suggests that Iran may have gotten its Kims mixed up.
A trip to Iran by North Korea’s young leader would be his first since taking power last December and would bring together two leaders who are cooperating on nuclear weapons programs.
The announced purpose of the trip will be to attend a summit of the Non-Aligned Nations. Fars News Agency quoted Mohammad Reza Forqani, NAM summit spokesman, telling Tabnak news website that Kim’s visit will show “the two countries’ willingness to strengthen their interactions.”
But South Korean government officials suggest the report may be incorrect and Iran may have misunderstood who from North Korea is actually attending. In North Korea, Kim Yong Nam, 84, holds the title of “president” of the Supreme People’s Assembly Presidium and has customarily attended overseas summits. He has been representing North Korea at NAM summits held every few years.
“We are trying to verify at the moment,” said Lee Sun-Heun, foreign press spokesperson at South Korea’s Unifications Ministry. But later Wednesday, Yonhap News reported that Kim will not attend the NAM summit quoting an unnamed Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry official who confirmed with the Iranian government.
NAM, founded in 1961, is a group of 120 states comprising 55 percent of the world population that do not consider themselves aligned with or against any major power bloc. Its 16th summit is expecting 40 heads of state and scheduled from Aug. 26 to 31.