Apr 30, 2015 6:54 AM
Kremlin: North Korean leader not coming to Moscow on May 9
The Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) The reclusive leader of North Korea will not be coming to Moscow next month for the Victory Day celebration, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman announced Thursday.
The highly anticipated visit would have been Kim Jong Un's first foreign trip since taking power more than three years ago.
The Russian foreign minister had said in March that Kim was among 26 world leaders who had accepted invitations to take part in the May 9 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
North Korea, however, had never confirmed that Kim planned to come.
Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told The Associated Press "internal matters" were preventing Kim from leaving North Korea. He did not elaborate.
On Wednesday, South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers that Kim had ordered the execution of 15 senior officials this year who were accused of challenging his authority.
Since taking over the leadership of North Korea after the 2011 death of his father, Kim Jong Il, Kim has removed members of the old guard through purges including the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason. Jang was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.
Peskov also announced that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would be among those coming to Moscow.
The highlight of Victory Day will be a military parade on Red Square overseen by Putin where Russia will show off its military hardware, including mobile missile launchers, and unveil a much-anticipated new tank.
Many Western leaders have snubbed the invitation because of Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict. Others have decided to visit Moscow to pay their respects to Russia for its role in World War II but will not attend the military parade.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Moscow on May 10, when she and Putin will lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier just outside the Kremlin.
Kate dePury contributed to this report.