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New buildings skyline in Changjon area, Pyongan Province, Pyongyang, North Korea

Eric Lafforgue via Reuters

Putin to visit North Korea and Vietnam

Russian state media reported Monday that President Vladimir Putin will travel to North Korea and Vietnam in the coming weeks as Moscow tries to build influence among middle powers in Asia.

This will be Putin’s first trip to Pyongyang in 24 years, and he’ll find the city much changed. In 2000, the massive unfinished Ryugyong Hotel loomed skeletally over Stalinist-era apartment blocks, in an almost-too-on-the-nose metaphor for the country’s paranoid and feeble state two years after the 1994-1998 mass famine. Putin was in town to officially reestablish relations with North Korea, which had ruptured following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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