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Bashar Assad of Syria to visit Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, North Korea, state media reports

June 3, 2018 GMT

Syrian President Bashar Assad announced plans on Sunday for an unprecedented meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang, days after the Trump administration announced the previously canceled summit with the North’s reclusive leader was back on.

Mr. Assad finalized plans to visit the North during during discussions between the Assad regime and Mun Jong-nam, North Korea’s envoy to Syria, on Saturday, reports state.

“I am to visit the DPRK and meet [His Excellency] Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Assad said, using using the acronym for North Korea’s full name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korean state news outlets reported Sunday. “I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail,” the Syrian leader added.

It remains unclear as to what the main points of discussion will be, once the two leaders meet face-to-face. Damascus has yet to issue a statement of its own regarding the upcoming visit.

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Pyongyang and the Assad regime have maintained political and military ties going back to the mid-1960s, when North Korea opened its diplomatic mission in Damascus.

North Korean troops were deployed to Syria, to back the country’s forces during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But the proposed May meeting between the country’s two leaders, in North Korea, will mark a significant step forward in that relationship.

It also comes as Washington plans to make advances in its own relationship with Pyongyang.

Mr. Trump announced Friday that his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place as originally planned on June 12 in Singapore as the start of a “process” to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons. The announcement came nearly a week after he announced plans to cancel the summit, blasting Pyongyang for its continued aggression in the region.

“You people are going to have to travel, because you’ll be in Singapore on June 12th,” he told reporters at the White House Friday. “I think we’re going to have a relationship, and it will start on June 12.”

But the president downplayed expectations for a quick deal on Pyongyang giving up its nuclear weapons, saying such an agreement won’t be signed in Singapore, and the meeting will serve as the start of a process.

“I think you’ll have a very positive result in the end not from one meeting,” Mr. Trump said. “I told them today, take your time, we can go fast or we can go slowly.”