Putin Makes First Visit to N. Korea

ByABC News
July 19, 2000, 12:51 PM

S E O U L, South Korea, July 19 -- Russian President Vladimir Putin begana historic two-day visit to North Korea today to mendstrained relations between the once-staunch ideological allies.

The visit, the first by a Russian or Soviet leader, comes on theheels of a breakthrough summit in June between leaders of the twoKoreas.

Putin arrived in Pyongyang from Beijing and was met by NorthKorean leader Kim Jong Il, the Norths official Korean Central NewsAgency said in a report monitored in Seoul.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out to welcome Putinalong his 10-mile motorcade route, it said.

In Beijing, Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin pledged toforge a strategic partnership in global affairs, particularlyagainst what they see as U.S. military dominance.

Putins swing through Beijing and Pyongyang seemed designed toshow that Russia remains an influential player in Asia despite itsshaky economy.

That message should serve Putin well when he travels on to Japanfor a Group of Eight summit this weekend.

In North Korea, Putin was scheduled to hold two rounds of talkswith Kim, focusing on economic cooperation and the Northsmissile capability.

The leaders planned to sign a declaration pledging to promotefriendship between their countries, Russias Itar-Tass news agencysaid in a report from North Korea.

North Koreas Communist Party organ, Rodong Sinmun, hailedPutins visit as an event important for new development of theKorean-Russian relations, the Itar-Tass report said.

Old Allies, Together Again

The Soviet Union and North Korea were ideological allies, butrelations soured after Moscow recognized pro-Western South Korea in1990.

No Soviet or Russian leaders before Putin had visited NorthKorea, compared to six summit meetings so far between Russia andSouth Korea. Putin is expected to visit Seoul before or after atrip to Japan in early September.

In post-Soviet times, Russia, struggling with its own economic problems,has virtually neglected impoverished North Korea. In 1995, itbacked away from a decades-old military alliance with the North.