North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived in the far east of Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin, report agencies. Mr Kim arrived in the Pacific Coast city of Vladivostok for his first talks with the Russian president. The Kremlin says the leaders will talk about the Korean peninsula’s ‘nuclear problem’. Mr Kim is seeking support after talks with US President Donald Trump collapsed, analysts say.
Mr Trump and Mr Kim met in Hanoi earlier this year to discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, but the summit - their second - ended without agreement. The North Korean leader arrived in Vladivostok after travelling on his private train and met Russian officials warmly. He was given bread and salt, a traditional offering to to guests in Russia.
‘I arrived in Russia bearing the warm feelings of our people, and as I already said, I hope this visit will be successful and useful,’ Mr Kim told Russian channel Rossiya 24.
‘I hope that during the talks with respected President Putin, I will be able to discuss in a concrete manner issues relating to the settlement of the situation on the Korean peninsula, and to the development of our bilateral relations.’ North Korean state media has yet to confirm a time or location for the meeting. But Russian and North Korean national flags are already in place on Vladivostok’s Russky island, where the summit is expected to take place.
The North Korean leader reportedly crossed into Russia on Wednesday and stepped out of his private train at the border city of Khasan. He was greeted by Russian women in traditional dress as part of a symbolic welcome ceremony. This visit is being widely viewed as an opportunity for North Korea to show it has powerful allies following the breakdown of nuclear talks with the US earlier this year, the BBC’s Laura Bicker says.
The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit in February. Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Mr Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of ‘talking nonsense’ and asking for someone ‘more careful’ to replace him. The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US, our correspondent adds.
Mr Kim may also try to pressure Moscow to ease sanctions. Analysts believe this summit is a chance for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.
President Putin has been eager to meet with the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.
Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.
Senior officials say the Kremlin is hoping to see a reduction in tensions on the peninsula. Mr Putin’s foreign-policy aide, Yuri Ushakov, said the situation there had ‘stabilised somewhat’ in recent months. ‘Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend,’ he told reporters on Tuesday. Russia has previously been involved in talks to end North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Former North Korean leader and Mr Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, met then-Russian president Dmitry Medvedev in 2011. A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said Russia ‘shares our viewpoints’ on denuclearisation and peace on the peninsula. Nuclear activity seems to be continuing in North Korea, and the country said it had tested a new ‘tactical guided weapon’ - thought to be a short-range missile - earlier in April.