Putin-Kim Jong Un summit in Russia on North Korea nuclear program kicks off today
Vladivostok, Russia — Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Thursday they had good talks about their joint efforts to resolve a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program. Putin suggested that while Russia and the U.S. both want denuclearization, the Trump administration will have to make greater compromises than it has been willing to thus far to make that happen.
After speaking with Kim the Russian leader said North Korea would need clear security guarantees, and he said other countries must be brought into the negotiations as bilateral agreements would not be enough.
Kim’s first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North. The negotiations have been stalled between the Kim regime and the United States since then. The Trump administration has demanded major disarmament steps from Kim before it will lift any of the sanctions.
With Kim frustrated over the impasse, Putin has seized an opportunity to try and expand Russia’s clout in the region and get more leverage with Washington by trying to rekindle the diplomacy.
Putin said he was ready to share details from his meeting with President Trump, adding that “there are no secrets.”
Capping a day of seemingly cordial talks, Kim presented Putin with a Korean sword, which he said “represents power, represents my soul and the soul of our people, who support you.” Classic Russian music as well as some popular North Korean songs were performed for the leaders and their delegations at a reception after their first day of talks.
Following their meeting at a university on the Russky Island, across a bridge from Vladivostok, Putin said he and Kim were in agreement that, “there is no, and can be no alternative to a peaceful settlement of nuclear and other problems of the region.”
He was quoted by Russian television as saying his country stood ready to continue cooperating with the Kim regime and other nations to reduce the tension on the Korean Peninsula.
“With active participation of the international community and all countries concerned we will definitely attain our goal on ensuring a lasting peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” Putin said.
Speaking at the start of the summit Putin voiced confidence that Kim’s visit would “help better understand what should be done to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes going on now.”
What Kim Jong Un wants out of his summit with Putin
“We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalize North Korea’s relations with the United States,” Putin told Kim.
Following their one-on-one meeting at the start of broader talks involving officials from both sides, Putin and Kim said they had a good discussion.
“We discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula and exchanged opinions about what should be done to improve the situation and how to do it,” Putin said. Kim noted that they had a “very meaningful exchange.”
“The reason we visited Russia this time is to meet and share opinions with your excellency, President Putin, and also share views on the Korean Peninsula and regional political situation, which has garnered the urgent attention of the world, and also hold deep discussions on strategic ways to pursue stability in the regional political situation and on the matters of jointly managing the situation,” Kim said.
He also congratulated the Russian leader on his re-election to another six-year term last year.
The Reuters news service pointed out that, while Putin “has a track record of making world leaders wait for him,” the Russian leader got to the scene of the talks about a half-hour before Kim.
U.S.-North Korea talks stalled
Kim is keen to get the U.S. to ease harsh economic sanctions in exchange for some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the U.S. maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearization moves.
North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations. Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.
Some experts say Kim could try to bolster his country’s ties with Russia and China. Others say it’s not clear how big of a role Russia can play in efforts to restart the nuclear negotiations. Still, the summit could enable Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday aboard an armored train, telling Russian state television he was hoping his first visit to Russia would “successful and useful.” He evoked his father’s “great love for Russia” and said he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries. The late Kim Jong Il made three trips to Russia, the last one in 2011.
Like the U.S., Moscow has strongly opposed Pyongyang’s nuclear bid. Putin has welcomed Mr. Trump’s meetings with Kim, but urged the U.S. to do more to ease Pyongyang’s security concerns.
Speaking before the talks, Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said Russia would seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from Trump-Kim meetings. He noted that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula.”
Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Putin will likely encourage Kim to continue constructive talks with the U.S., reflecting Russia’s own worry about the North’s nuclear and missile programs. “Russia can’t be expected to side with North Korea and, let’s say, support the North Koreans all the way in the Security Council where Russia is a veto wielding member and where all sanctions imposed on North Korea require Russia’s approval,” he said.
Trenin emphasized that Moscow is skeptical that the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its nuclear weapons, considering it a “mission impossible.”
“North Korea will not give up the only guarantee of the survival of the North Korean state and its regime,” Trenin said.