SEOUL/MOSCOW April 23 (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, a Kremlin official said.
The visit is part of Kim’s effort to build foreign support, analysts said, after the breakdown of a second U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam in February meant no relief on sanctions for North Korea.
The details of the summit were confirmed by Yuri Ushakov, a Kremlin foreign policy aide. The main item on the agenda would be international efforts to end the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear programme, Ushakov told reporters.
“In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilised somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea’s initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site,” Ushakov said. “Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend.”
The North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Tuesday the visit would happen soon, but did not elaborate on a time or location.
Kim’s chief aide, Kim Chang Son, was seen in Vladivostok on Sunday, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.
Russia has for years been involved in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear progamme. It was involved in so-called six party talks – along with the two Koreas, Japan, the United States and China – that were last held in 2009.
NK News, a group that follows North Korea, showed photos on its website on Monday of preparations at Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Federal University, which is likely to host part of the summit. Workers were putting up North Korean and Russian flags.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said it understood the agenda would include Russia-North Korea relations, denuclearisation, and regional cooperation.
“Russia shares our viewpoints such as the achievement of complete denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said in Seoul.
“I hope that the summit will be an opportunity that contributes to positive progress.”
After the failed Hanoi summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Kim is probably looking to prove that he is still sought after by world leaders, and that he has more options, said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University.
Kim did not want to look too dependent on Washington, Beijing and Seoul, he said.
“As for Russia, the Putin-Kim summit will reaffirm Moscow’s place as a major player on the Korean Peninsula. This meeting is important for Russian international prestige.”