TOKYO - North Korea and Russia are set to hold their first joint defense drill as early as this year in an attempt to balance the United States, South Korea and Japan's influence on the Korean peninsula, the Asahi newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Members of the two neighbors' navies and air forces will take part in a joint rescue exercise at sea, following an agreement reached last month by impoverished North Korea's leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Japan's Asahi said, citing a source close to the North.
It is rare for the North to conduct defense drills with other militaries. Japan and South Korea are likely to keep an eye on the exercise, though it not expected to involve the use of weapons, the Asahi reported.
Isolated Pyongyang, which in 2009 walked out of talks aimed at providing it with economic and energy aid as an incentive to give up its atomic weapons program, has been making conciliatory moves in recent months.