North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Russsia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday for his first summit with President Vladimir Putin amid stalled nuclear talks with the US. Russian state television showed Kim stepping out of his green private train at the city’s railway station in the afternoon where he was greeted by the Russian officials warmly.
“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,” 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,” he added.
The North Korean state media is yet to confirm a time or location for Kim’s meeting with Putin. But according to the BBC, the Russian and North Korean national flags are already in place on Vladivostok’s Russky island, where the summit is expected to take place. Kim’s journey from the train station in Khasan, near the North Korean border, to Vladivostok took about nine hours, according to CNN.
At the Khasan station, the North Korean leader was presented with flowers as well as bread and salt — a Russian tradition for welcoming guests — local lawmaker Natalia Karpova told Russian state news agency TASS.
Kim’s visit to Russia comes amid an impasse in the nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington. Trump and the North Korean leader’s Hanoi meeting ended early without an agreement, with the two sides seemingly far apart on how to trade sanctions relief for meaningful steps toward denuclearization. A US State Department spokesperson said Washington was aware of the reports that Kim had left for Russia.
“The US and the international community is committed to the same goal — the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. It is Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearization upon which the world is focused,” the official said. During Kim’s visit, North Korea may seek Russian support in pressuring Washington over sanctions relief, which continues to be a major sticking issue in talks between the two sides.
The Donald Trump administration earlier said sanctions will only be lifted after Pyongyang gives up its nuclear weapons programme. Pyongyang also may be seeking to lessen its economic reliance on Beijing, North Korea’s only significant trading partner.