In what would be a first for Kim Jong Un, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was reportedly quoted as saying that “I am going to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong Un.” This was reported by North Korea’s KCNA news on May 30. If Assad visits North Korea, he would be the first head of state to meet with Kim in his home country. Assad was also quoted as saying that Kim would “achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail,” according to the BBC.
The relations between North Korea and Syria dates back to 1966 when the two countries began their relations. The relationship was further cemented in 1973 when North Korea sent weapons and military support during the Arab-Israeli war. The support included 530 troops including pilots, reported Reuters.
Furthermore, a UN report in February claimed that North Korea had supplied Syria with supplies to make chemical weapons. This was a big claim to make, considering that Assad says he does not stockpile any chemical weapons. However, the Syrian regime is known for deploying chemical weapons throughout the civil war that has waged on for over seven years.
In recent months, Kim has extended invitations and have met with various world leaders. This has included meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Kim may also be meeting with Russian President Putin. On June 12, Kim is also planning on meeting with President Trump.
Whether Assad will really be visiting North Korea has yet to be confirmed by the Syrian government. However, Assad also reportedly stated that “The Syrian government will as ever fully support all policies and measures of the DPRK leadership and invariably strengthen and develop the friendly ties with the DPRK.”
For Assad to leave Syria in itself would be newsworthy, considering he has not left Syria very often during the seven-year civil war in his country. However, Assad has reportedly visited Russia several times, and the last visit took place in May. The Washington Post also noted that there has been no concrete date or time stated for the potential visit by Assad.
Since North Korea and Syria have been allies for decades, the announcement of a meeting is not entirely surprising. Especially considering that in 2007, Israel destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria. Many believe that Syria was able to develop the nuclear reactor only with help from North Korea. The extent of the help is unknown, but some believe that the design was provided to Syria by North Korea.