A Russian military delegation headed by Viktor Kalganov, deputy head of Russia’s National Defence Command Centre, arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday, North Korean media reported.
Kalganov is involved with Russian national security and the National Defence Command Center (NDCC) is tasked with assessing the political-military environment, threats to Russia, and command and control of Russian forces.
“The NDCC is the big brain hub command center that’s supposed to integrate operations,” Olga Oliker, a Senior Adviser and Director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at CSIS, told NK News.
“So it’s different from a general ministry of defense delegation because you would expect the discussion to be about command and control and management of operations, very specifically.”
While initial reports did not make the purpose of the visit clear, subsequent updates from Russian media indicated the visit was intended to develop political and security dialogue.
“The aim of the military, political and diplomatic efforts is clear: all sides should be put back at negotiations table, to put away provocative and threatening military rhetoric and demonstration of force,” Deputy Head of the Defense Ministry’s Public Council, Aleksandr Kanshin, told Interfax.
On the same day, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov stressed the importance of dialogue with North Korea during a press briefing in Moscow.
“North Korea is our neighbor,” he said. “We need to develop relations with that country, and political dialogue is very important.”
The Russian deputy foreign minister added that Moscow welcomed remarks from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made on Tuesday regarding the possibility of negotiations, though added Washington had not previously seemed interested in Russia’s freeze for freeze proposals.
“We’ve always felt the U.S. skepticism, which stems from its reliance on sanctions and the application of forceful pressure in this case, too,” Ryabkov told TASS news agency.
Despite the U.S. diplomat’s remarks, a White House official later told Reuters that North Korea must improve its behavior before Washington comes to the negotiating table.
The Russian delegation will be in North Korea until Friday and is the second time Russian officials have visited the DPRK in recent weeks: a delegation from the North’s Central Court returned from Russia on Saturday.
Edited by Oliver Hotham