Assad to be in North Korea
With the countdown for Kim Jong Un-Donald Trump meeting in Singapore having begun, the North Korean leader is revealing plans to meet yet another leader, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Assad will visit Kim in North Korea, the latter country's state, news agency KCNA revealed. If the meeting takes place in Pyongyang, it would be the first time a world leader has visited Kim in the capital. The announcement comes at a time of increased international diplomacy for Kim, who in recent months has met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarised zone that divides the two countries, caught an eye-catching train to China for a meeting with President Xi Jinping and, last week, met Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Pyongyang. Trump has already confirmed his meeting with Kim on June 12. In anticipation of the meeting with the North Korean leader, Assad received his credentials from the nation's Ambassador, according to KCNA. The report quoted Assad as saying: "The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean peninsula brought about recently by the outstanding political calibre and wise leadership of HE (His Excellency) Kim Jong Un."
"I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realise the reunification of Korea without fail," it added. The report referred to the close ties between the two countries and quoted Assad as saying Syria would "fully support all policies and measures" of the North Korean leadership. A new tale of two dictators is, indeed, emerging. Ties between North Korea and Syria have remained friendly for decades with Assad's father Hafez meeting the founder of the North Korean regime, Kim Il Sung, in the 1970s. In 2015, the Syrian government even named a park in Damascus after Kim Il Sung. At the park's inauguration, Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister called the North Korean founder "a historic ruler and leader, famous for his struggle to liberate and build his country." As client states of the Soviet Union, both countries have developed strong military ties. North Korea has for years been suspected of providing Syria with advanced Scud missiles and the technology to produce them. In April last year, following a suspected Syrian chemical attack on civilians, Kim sent Assad a congratulatory message to mark the founding anniversary of Syria's ruling party. "The Syrian government and people are reliably defending the independence and security of the country, resolutely smashing the acts of aggression of all the hostile forces and meeting their challenges under your correct leadership," the message said. Precisely what impact the latest development will have on Washington remains to be seen.