MOSCOW (TheBlaze/AP) — The leader of North Korea canceled his highly anticipated trip to Moscow next month for the Victory Day celebration, President Vladimir Putin's spokesman announced Thursday. It was to be Kim Jong Un's first foreign trip since taking power more than three years ago.
In this July 27, 2013 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to war veterans during a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea. The dictator canceled a planned trip to Russia this week citing "internal matters." (AP/Wong Maye-E)
The Russian foreign minister 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 Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany.
North Korea, however, 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 further.
Last month, Chris Hill, the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea and dean of the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies, told CNN the Russian's invitation to the North Korean leader was "their way of putting their finger in our eye."
"I don't think the Russians are any more enthusiastic about the North Koreans than we are," Hill said.
On Wednesday, South Korea's spy agency told lawmakers that Kim had ordered the executions of 15 senior officials this year who were accused of challenging his authority.
Since taking over North Korea's leadership after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in 2011, Kim has removed members of the old guard through a series of purges — including the 2013 execution of his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, for alleged treason. Jang was married to Kim Jong Il's sister and was once considered the second most powerful man in North Korea.