A senior North Korean official has heralded Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a "very independent statesman" during his visit to Istanbul to participate in a regional gathering. Kim Chung Song, a member of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), asserted that his visit will spring a new beginning in relations between Pyongyang and Ankara in the coming years.

Kim, a North Korean parliamentarian, told Turkey's Anadolu Agency that Erdogan is working for his country and he "personally" likes the Turkish leader, who has been facing a barrage of criticism in recent months over a crackdown against independent critics, journalists, academics and the judiciary.

"So, we know that how President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan is behaving for the sake of the country," said Kim. "President Erdogan is a very independent statesman.

"All these good feelings and the commonality of foreign policy can be very solid foundations for future relations," added the North Korean official, who is a member of the delegation taking part in the 10th plenary session of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA).

Speaking about the ties between North Korea and Turkey, he said, "There has been very little exchange of mutual visits, but I think it is a good beginning."

He continued, "I am sure and I believe that Turkey can do it well. I am impressed by the Turkish hospitality and by the way the Parliament of Turkey has operated this important plenary."

Turkey did not have any diplomatic relations with North Korea until 2001. However, that changed after Ankara officially recognised North Korea – formally known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) – in 2001.

While Ankara is represented by its embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Pyongyang's diplomatic matters with Turkey are dealt via its mission in Bulgaria.

Erdogan on Israel
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has faced criticism in recent months for his handling of anti-government critics and bodies Umit Bektas/Reuters