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Jacob Fromer is NK News's Washington DC correspondent. He previously worked in the U.S. Senate.
The leader of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA), Pak Thae Song, will travel to Moscow and meet with the head of the Russian Senate next week, according to an announcement by Russia’s official TASS news agency on Tuesday.
The announcement confirms reports last month that a delegation from Pyongyang, likely to be led by Pak, the chairman of the SPA and a vice chairman of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, was planning to travel to Russia in late October.
The meeting between the two parliaments will be the second this year, following a Russian delegation’s trip to Pyongyang in March.
“On Monday, work will begin in Russia of the DPRK parliamentary delegation led by the chairman of the Supreme People’s Assembly at the invitation of the chair of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko,” the Federation Council’s press service said, according to TASS.
“A meeting will be held between the two speakers,” the announcement said.
Matviyenko’s official title is Speaker of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
The Federation Council is the official name of Russia’s Senate.
The announcement of next week’s meeting between the high-level officials from Pyongyang and Moscow also came one day after the speaker of South Korea’s parliament reportedly had his own meeting with Russia’s Matviyenko.
Their meeting took place on the sidelines of this week’s ongoing Inter-Parliamentary Union session in Belgrade, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Moon Hee-sang, the speaker of Seoul’s National Assembly, asked Matviyenko for Russia’s help in solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula, according to Yonhap.
“Please stress the importance to the North Korean delegation that only after North Korea’s denuclearization is done, all could get something of a win-win that benefits everybody,” he reportedly said.
It is unclear what issues the delegations from Moscow and Pyongyang plan to discuss at their meeting next week.
One expert told NK News that a wider range of topics may come up.
“Russia and North Korea regularly exchange parliamentary visits,” said Professor Elizabeth Wishnick, an expert on international relations in Asia at Montclair State University.
“However, this one comes after disputes over North Korean poaching in Russian waters, most recently in late September.”
The poaching dispute has seen hundreds of North Korean fishermen arrested by Russian authorities in recent weeks.
“I expect economic ties are on the agenda,” Wishnick continued, “as Russia is committed to drawing down the number of North Korean workers by the end of the year in response to UN sanctions, and North Korea suffers from a swine virus that may have decimated its pig population.”
The sanctions, based on UN Security Council Resolution 2397, require all overseas North Korean workers to be sent home by December.
According to UN data, Russia had 11,490 workers from the DPRK at the end of 2018, down from 30,023 at the start of the year.
Featured image: Flickr user “xiquinhosilva”