North Korea has been largely closed off from the outside world since early 2020, when it shut its borders in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with even its own nationals prevented from entering.
But Pyongyang last month invited high-level Chinese and Russian delegations to attend celebrations marking the end of Korean War hostilities.
It also allowed a taekwondo delegation to travel to an international competition, and soon after that, restarted some commercial passenger flights to Beijing.
“The Russian Army Academic Song and Dance Ensemble… arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday,” the official Korean Central News Agency reported.
Pyongyang celebrates the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding day on September 9 and the nuclear-armed state has previously indicated it will hold a “militia parade” to mark the event.
Russia has also been allowed to bring in a new batch of diplomats to its Pyongyang embassy, Moscow’s embassy in Pyongyang said on Facebook on Thursday.
“For the first time since 2019 we welcomed 20 diplomatic and technical staff who arrived at the embassy as part of a staff rotation,” the post says, alongside a photo showing Russian officials posing in front of what appears to be the embassy building in Pyongyang.
The arrival of the new Russian diplomatic corps and the military ensemble comes as speculation mounts that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — who rarely leaves his country — will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss arms deals.
Kim is likely to head by armored train later this month to Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast not far from North Korea, to meet Putin, US and other officials told the New York Times.
Vladivostok is hosting the Eastern Economic Forum from September 10-13, which was attended by representatives from 68 countries last year.
According to the Times, Putin is seeking artillery shells and antitank missiles from North Korea, while Kim, who could even travel to Moscow, is reportedly in search of advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as food aid for his impoverished nation.
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