Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, is expected to embark on his first state visit from Sunday, attending an international meeting in Iran.
Media reports from South Korea indicate that Kim, who inherited power after the death of his father in December, will take part in the six-day summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran from Sunday.
The organisation is made up of 120 member states that consider themselves independent of any of the major powers, but the venue for this year’s summit has provoked criticism in the West because of Iran’s defiance of international pressure over its nuclear programme.
North Korea is also standing firm in the face of criticism about its efforts to develop nuclear warheads and the missiles to deliver them.
Iran and North Korea are close allies and have reportedly exchanged technology and know-how in the face of United Nations sanctions.
Analysts believe the two states may be attempting to build a united front and perhaps attract other non-aligned nations to their corner.
South Korea’s Arirang News quoted an Iranian spokesman for the summit as confirming that Tehran would welcome Kim on his first overseas trip since taking over North Korea.
Around 40 world leaders have already stated that they will attend the meeting, Iran says, although it has not been able to confirm whether Ban Ki-moon, the secretary general of the UN, will be present.
Ban, a South Korean, has been a vocal critic of Tehran’s nuclear programme and earlier this week called on nations that will be attending the summit to pressure Iran to come clean on its nuclear ambitions.
Washington has asked that Ban not take part in the meeting and stated that Iran does not deserve to host the meeting due to its refusal to comply with international demands to provide details of its nuclear programme.
“Iran is trying to manipulate this NAM summit and the attendees to advance its own agenda and to obscure the fact that it is failing to live up to multiple obligations that it has to the UN Security Council, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and other international bodies,” Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters in Washington.
If Kim does travel to Iran, it will signal yet another radical change from the leadership demonstrated by his predecessor, Kim Jong-il, who was famous for rarely travelling overseas and never travelled by aircraft.
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