Saturday 21 September 2019

Nuclear row tops agenda as Putin and Kim in talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrives in the Russian far-eastern city of Vladivostok. Photo: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrives in the Russian far-eastern city of Vladivostok. Photo: Shamil Zhumatov/Reuters

Maria Vasilyeva

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in the Russian city of Vladivostok yesterday for a summit he is likely to use to seek support from President Vladimir Putin, while Pyongyang's nuclear talks with Washington are in limbo.

The armoured train carrying Mr Kim - on his first official visit to Russia - pulled into the quayside station in Vladivostok, on the Pacific Ocean, a few hours after crossing from North Korea into Russia.

Earlier, at a stop on the border, Mr Kim told Russian state television he was hoping for useful and successful discussions with Mr Putin.

"I hope that we can discuss concrete questions about peace negotiations on the Korean peninsula, and our bilateral relations," he said through an interpreter.

Mr Kim will sit down for talks with Mr Putin today at a university campus on an island just off Vladivostok.

It will be the first summit between the two leaders, and the stand-off over Pyongyang's nuclear programme will top the agenda, according to a Kremlin foreign policy aide.

It comes two months after a summit between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump broke down over disagreement on ending the North's nuclear programme.

A North Korean official heavily involved in advancing the US-North Korean talks, Kim Yong-chol, was removed from a top post, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

Pyongyang is looking for alternative sources of international support, including from Russia, and for possible relief from sanctions that are hurting its economy.

For Mr Putin, the summit is an opportunity to show that Russia remains a global player, despite being under sanctions itself over its intervention in Ukraine and allegations it meddled in US elections.

But analysts predicted Mr Kim was unlikely to emerge with any substantial promises of sanctions relief. The meeting is likely to focus more on showing camaraderie.

Vladivostok is located a few hours from the Russian-North Korean border by rail, Mr Kim's preferred mode of international transport.

On arrival in the city, the North Korean leader reviewed an honour guard of Russian troops, with bodyguards looking on. A military orchestra played first the North Korean national anthem, then the Russian anthem.

After officials from the two countries exchanged handshakes, Mr Kim climbed into a black limousine and drove off.

Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, said Mr Kim would want to be seen as a world leader who has international interlocutors besides Washington, Beijing or Seoul.

"As for Russia, the summit will reaffirm Moscow's place as a major player on the Korean peninsula," he said.

Irish Independent

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