MOSCOW - Russia and North Korea will stage their first joint military exercises next year after agreeing to expand their ties during Kim Jong-Il's visit to Russia last month, a general said on Sept. 13.
The decision to stage the unprecedented search-and-rescue naval operations was reached during a late-August visit to Pyongyang by Russia's Eastern Military District commander Igor Muginov, Interfax reported.
"The idea is to hold the joint rescue maneuvers next year," Muginov said in reference to a Japanese press report suggesting that the exercises could begin later this year.
Muginov's visit to Pyongyang for talks with one of the Stalinist state's top army commanders came less than a week after Kim held rare talks in Siberia with President Dmitry Medvedev that focused on trade and economic assistance.
North Korea rarely stages joint maneuvers with other nations, and Russia's involvement will be watched closely by the United States and South Korea, which conduct regular war games in the region.
The Russia general didn't say how many ships will take part in the drills or disclose exactly when the exercises might begin.