PYONGYANG, August 15 (Itar-Tass) — The solemn ceremony of laying wreaths at the monument to Soviet soldiers was held here on Monday to mark the 66th anniversary of the liberation of Korea. There is an inscription on the monument: “Eternal glory to the Great Soviet Army that liberated the Korean people from the yoke of the Japanese militarists and opened the way for them to freedom and independence.”
The ceremony was attended by North Korean military leaders, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), foreign diplomatic missions, military attaches, Russian Ambassador in Pyongyang Valery Sukhinin, employees of Russian institutions. A guard of honour was stationed at the monument, and the orchestra of the DPRK Ministry of People’s Armed Forces played a military march.
After that the ceremony participants laid flowers at the cemetery where Soviet Army soldiers and citizens of the USSR are buried. The memorial and funeral service there was held by head of the Moscow Patriarchate Administration for Institutions Abroad Archbishop Mark of Yegoryevsk. He arrived in North Korea for a visit leading a delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the consecration of the temple of the Holy Life-giving Trinity in Pyongyang.
There are 12 military memorial sites in North Korea at present that keep the memory of Soviet soldiers who died in Korea in 1945 in the battles with the Japanese army. In addition to Pyongyang, there are memorials, monuments and graves also in the cities of Chongjn, Hamhung, Wonsan, Rajin, Haeju, Nampho, Sinuiju, and many others. According to the Russian embassy in the capital of North Korea, a total of 1,372 Soviet citizens, including 991 soldiers, are buried in the country’s territory.
The heroism of Soviet soldiers who died for the liberation of Korea, “will live forever in the hearts of the Korean people,” DPRK Minister of Foreign Trade Ri Ryong Nam said at a reception at the Russian Embassy on the occasion of the Korea liberation anniversary. According to him, the “bonded by blood” friendship relations formed in the joint struggle against Japanese imperialism now continue to develop in all spheres. DPRK leader Kim Jong Il, the minister said, the same as before, “gives serious attention to the development of Korean-Russian relations.”
Ri Ryong Nam pointed to the intensive exchanges between the two countries in the political, economic, cultural and other spheres. According to him, the reconstruction of the railway from the Russian border station Khasan to the North Korean port Rajin is actively going on, negotiations on the problem of North Korea’s debt to the Soviet Union have been successfully completed in Moscow, and a meeting of the Intergovernmental Russian-Korean Commission will be held in Pyongyang this month.
Recently, overall relations between Russia and North Korea have been improving. Russia is upgrading its railway connections with North Korea in Khasan and has been participating in an ambitious plan to build a trans-Korean railway.
The first meeting of the Inter-governmental Commission for Trade, Economic, and Scientific-Technical Cooperation between Russia and DPRK was held in the spring of 1996. Furthermore, visits of high-level Russian statesmen to North Korea, such as the Speaker of the State Duma Gennady Seleznev, were important events in the rehabilitation of Russia-DPRK bilateral relations, and aided in halting their further deterioration.
Russian diplomats began to realize that Moscow’s relationship with Pyongyang had to be improved in order to achieve a balanced position on the Korean peninsula. In the fall of 1996, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs from both countries signed a plan covering diplomatic exchange and an agreement on cultural and scientific cooperation for 1997-1998. This agreement became the basis for the conclusion of numerous interdepartmental agreements in the following years. In November 1998, Russia and North Korea, alongside with China signed a treaty to clearly demarcate their territorial waters on the Tumen River, which borders the three countries.
Vladimir Putin’s elevation to Prime Minister in August 1999 and then President in March had critical significance for Pyongyang, which attributed its previous grievances to Boris Yeltsin. Kim Jong Il’s references to Vladimir Putin were to the effect that at last Russia had a leader “with whom to do business.” However, intensive diplomatic hard work had to precede a historical breakthrough in Russia– DPRK relations. These efforts began to bear fruit in late 1998, and by March 1999, it became possible to agree completely on the text and initial new Treaty on Friendship, Good-Neighbourly Relations and Cooperation. It was signed in February 2000, after Boris Yeltsin left the political arena.
Starting in April 2000, covert preparations for a visit by President Putin to Pyongyang began. The first summit meeting in the history of Russian-Korean relations took place in July 2000 when a Joint Declaration was signed, the first international document signed by Kim Jong Il as leader of the DPRK.
Following North Korea’s withdrawal from the NPT on January 10, 2003 and its decision to suspend participation in the Six-Party Talks on February 10, 2005, official Russian representatives expressed concern, and stated that such actions did not correspond to the goal, supposedly shared by the DPRK, of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.