In observance of the Korean War armistice anniversary, Russia’s defense minister and a senior Chinese delegation, will pay North Korea a visit. The latter marks the first known visits by foreign delegations since the pandemic. Despite the festivities, the region is still tense between North Korean with South Korea and the United States.

North Korea will welcome Russia’s defense minister Sergei Shoigu, and a high-level Chinese delegation to Pyongyang for Korean War armistice anniversary celebrations this week, state media said Tuesday, after a lengthy pandemic closure. Russia, one of Pyongyang’s historic allies, remains one of a handful of nations that maintains friendly relations with the North. Its leader, Kim Jong Un, has recently been steadfast in his support for Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including, Washington says, supplying rockets and missiles.China, North Korea’s main trading partner, also confirmed Tuesday it would send a delegation led by Politburo member Li Hongzhong.The foreign visitors are set to attend events in Pyongyang to mark 70 years since the signing of the armistice, known as Victory Day in the North, which KCNA said would be celebrated in a “grand manner that will go down in history”.

Leader Kim’s biggest nuclear-capable missiles are likely to roll through Kim Il Sung Square during the parade.

A large-scale military parade and other events are expected to be held this week, with satellite images indicating that soldiers and civilians have been training for the parade for months.

Leader Kim’s biggest nuclear-capable missiles and other military capabilities are likely to roll through Kim Il Sung Square during the event.

The visits by the Chinese and Russian delegations are the first known visits by any foreign delegations since the start of the pandemic.

North Korea has been under a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade since early 2020 to protect itself from Covid-19, which has prevented even its nationals from entering the country.

Beijing said the delegation would travel to Pyongyang on Wednesday, suggesting they would not be required to undergo an extensive quarantine ahead of the Thursday anniversary event.

An armistice agreement ending Korean War hostilities was signed on July 27, 1953, but the two Koreas remain technically at war because a peace treaty never replaced the agreement.

Beijing is North Korea’s most important ally and economic benefactor, their relationship forged in the bloodshed of the Korean War in the 1950s.

Relations between the two Koreas are currently at one of their lowest historical points, as diplomacy between Pyongyang and Seoul has stalled and Kim has called for ramping up weapons development, including tactical nukes.

Tensions have risen again recently due to US soldier Travis King, who was on a tour of the demilitarized zone last week when he ran across the border into North Korea.

Lyne Sammouri, with AFP