Syrian President Bashar Assad is planning a visit to Pyongyang to meet leader Kim Jong Un, North Korean media reported Sunday.
Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper that serves as mouthpiece for the ruling Workers’ Party, said Assad had made the remark Wednesday during a ceremony in which he accepted the credentials of North Korean diplomats in Syria, including the new ambassador.
“I am going to visit the DPRK and meet His Excellency Kim Jong Un,” Assad reportedly said, using the north’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Assad provided no time frame for the proposed visit.
It would be the first time the North Korean leader would be meeting the leader of a foreign country in a summit in Pyongyang.
The report quoted Assad as praising Kim for his “outstanding political caliber and wise leadership,” linking it to the latest flurry of diplomacy by the isolated communist country.
“I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail,” Assad was quoted as saying, adding that the Syrian government “will completely support all the policies and measures” taken by North Korea’s leadership. He expressed his will to improve the ties between the two countries.
US President Donald Trump last week confirmed his participation in an unprecedented summit in Singapore on June 12 with Kim, an extraordinary development that followed a year of escalating rhetoric and threats between Washington and Pyongyang. Kim has already hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo twice in the North Korean capital.
Kim has also recently met twice with Moon Jae-in, president of arch-rival South Korea, and twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He recently hosted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
In February, UN experts concluded that North Korea had sent items used in ballistic missile and chemical weapons programs to Syria, along with missile technicians, in violation of UN sanctions.
The panel of experts monitoring sanctions against North Korea said its investigations into Pyongyang’s transfer of prohibited ballistic missiles, conventional arms and dual use goods found more than 40 previously unreported shipments to Syria between 2012 and 2017.
The US and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas, including this year in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, which Assad’s government denies.