MOSCOW – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may visit Russia in late April, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing sources familiar with the contacts between Moscow and Pyongyang.
“It is expected that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend an event in the Russian Far East on April 24,” the source writes, adding that his sources believe that just then “the expected summit” of the two leaders could be held.
The Kremlin adviser for international relations, Yuri Ushakov, said in early April that the possible meeting of Putin and Kim Jong-un was in the coordination phase.
The official of the presidential administration said then that “at the moment the parameters, the place and the date” of the meeting are being agreed.
In the near future, the patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Kiril, could visit North Korea. He was invited by the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, ahead of the patriarchal exarch for Southeast Asia, Sergui de Solnechnogorsk.
“We believe that patriarch Kiril’s visit to Pyongyang in the near future is possible at the invitation of Kim Jong-un, they are happy to welcome us, we carry out our religious services there, and they recognize me as the ruling bishop,” Sergui said.
He stressed that the North Koreans are very respectful of Patriarch Kiril.
As for everyday religious practice, the Russian Orthodox Church experiences no problems in its activities in North Korea. For example, the Trinity Cathedral in Pyongyang was built in 2006 by decree of now deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. It is visited not only by Russian diplomats, but also by the staff of the Bulgarian and Romanian Embassies, Sergui explained.
Moreover, North Korean authorities are not opposed to North Korean students leaving the Russian theological academies – in Moscow and Khabarovsk – and then becoming clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church.
“In August 2018, Patriarch Kiril appointed two North Korean students to Moscow for church service,” Sergui said.
The Patriarchal Exarchate in Southeast Asia was created by the Patriarchate of Moscow in December 2018. It operates in Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, North Korea, South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand.
At the same time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople does not recognize Moscow’s activities in Pyongyang and insists that the capital’s Cathedral of the Trinity is his.