Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to meet Kim Jong-un in North Korea
North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Sunday, June 3 reported that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has planned to pay a visit to North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. It will potentially be a visit by the first head of state to meet the North Korean leader in his own country.
The Syrian leader reportedly revealed his plan about the visit on May 30 as he received the credentials of North Korea's new ambassador to Syria, Mun Jong-nam. The time and purpose of Assad's visit was not clear.
Syria is one of the few countries that has maintained cordial relations with North Korea, a hermit nation, over a considerable time. The two countries had set up their official ties in 1966 and there have been instances when North Korea has stood by the Syrian regime - be it during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war or during the civil war in which Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people. The United Nations accused North Korea of backing Assad's chemical weapons programme which was slammed by the West and also saw a retaliatory military strike by the US, UK and France in mid-April.
Kim Jong-un has shown a diplomatic opening since the beginning of 2018, engaging with countries like China and South Korea, ahead of his big meeting with US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12 - a summit came back on track after getting derailed.
Assad, a vocal critic of the US and West, welcomed the development in the Korean Peninsula and praised Kim over showing "outstanding political calibre" and "wise leadership", the KCNA report said.
The western media views the Syrian leader's engagement with North Korea as a sign of his rising confidence.
The civil war in Syria has gone on for eight years now and with the backing of Russia and Iran, Assad has been successfully in thwarting the West's attempts to derail him all these years and continue to push back the rebels, even if that meant killing his own citizens.
Assad's forces have successfully wrested control of territories once under possession of the rebels and despite the April offensive by the West, has not any sign of bowing down.
Now, his keenness to meet the leader of another country confronted by the West shows his confidence in engaging with other dictators.