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Assad planning visit to North Korea: Report

Syrian president would be the first by a head of state to travel to Pyongyang since Kim Jong-un came to power
The Syrian president meets with North Korea's ambassador in Damascus (SANA/AFP)

The first head of state to meet Kim Jong-un in the North Korean capital Pyongyang could be Syria's Bashar al-Assad, after North Korean state media announced a visit on Sunday. 

State news agency KCNA quoted Assad announcing his intention to visit the country when he met the North Korean ambassador in Damascus on 30 May. 

"I am going to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong Un," Assad said according to the report, referring to North Korea by its official acronym.

Assad also expressed confidence that Kim would "achieve the final victory and realise the reunification of Korea without fail," according to KCNA.

There was no immediate comment from the Syrian president's office.

The report highlighted the long relationship fostered by each of the leaders' predecessors - Kim's grandfather and Assad's father. 

They also have in common their international isolation: North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme and Syria over its brutal response to opponents of Assad's rule during its seven-year civil war. 

According to South Korea's foreign ministry, North Korea established diplomatic relations with Syria in 1966, opening an embassy in Damascus. Syria opened its mission in Pyongyang in 1969.

Close military cooperation between the two countries began when North Korea sent some 530 troops, including pilots, tank drivers and missile personnel, to Syria during the Middle East war in October 1973.

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