Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to visit North Korea

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is set to visit North Korea in what would be the first visit by an international head of state to the country since Kim Jong-un came to power, North Korean state media reported.

Assad is said to have told the North Korean envoy to Damascus, Mun Jong-nam, that he would make the trip during a meeting on May 30.

I am to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong-un,” Assad is quoted as saying, using the acronym for North Korea’s full name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail,” Assad added.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian president’s office.

Pyongyang and Damascus maintain good relations, and United Nations monitors have accused North Korea of cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons, a charge North Korea denies.

Both countries have faced international isolation, North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, and Syria over its tactics during its bloody civil war.

Since taking power in 2011, Kim has not publicly met another head of state in North Korea.

Close military cooperation between the two countries began when North Korea sent some 530 troops – including pilots, tank drivers and missile personnel – to Syria during the Arab-Israeli war in October 1973.

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