Kim, Putin vow to seek closer ties at first talks

Larry Hoffman
April 26, 2019

If North Korea is given security guarantees, Kim Jong Un would be willing to denuclearize, Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with Kim Thursday.

As a result of Thursday's summit, Putin and Kim "reached an agreement that Russia will definitely be one of the global guarantors of any accord between North Korea and the United States", Andrey Fyodorov, Russia's former deputy foreign minister and an expert on North Korea, told Al Jazeera.

Putin and Kim held a day of talks on an island off the Russian Pacific city of Vladivostok two months after Kim's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump ended in disagreement, cooling hopes of a breakthrough in the decades-old nuclear row. The late Kim Jong-il made three trips to Russian Federation, last time in 2011.

The Trump-Kim meeting in Vietnam in February broke down after the North demanded the removal of most of the USA -led sanctions against the country in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear program.

There's no indication on whether Putin pressed Kim to return to stalled negotiations with the U.S. Many analysts note that Kim's visit may be a way for him to fix his image after talks with Trump collapsed, NPR's Anthony Kuhn reported.

"It is to exchange our mutual views on Korean Peninsula and this region's political landscape which is a great focus of the world's attention".

Putin's last summit with a North Korean leader was in 2002 when his counterpart was Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un's father and predecessor.

North Korea employs a fleet of ghost ships sailing around the globe to evade sanctions and buy and sell goods such as coal and oil, according to an in-depth report.

The two leaders appeared to get on well.

But Putin is not likely to play the role of spoiler in the North Korea-U.S. talks, in part because he doesn't have much leverage over Pyongyang, said Andrei Lankov, a professor at Seoul's Kookmin University.

Officials and experts say that unlike the Trump Administration, there is no confusion about who makes all the decisions in North Korea, and mounting evidence that Kim is following a carefully crafted script, endorsed by China, his country's most important ally, in his effort to move beyond the failed summit in Hanoi and cut a deal with Trump.

Like the US, Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang's nuclear bid. There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the United States and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.

Trenin emphasized that Moscow is skeptical that the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its nuclear weapons, considering it a "mission impossible".

"I think there needs to be a multilateral security regime for the North", he said.

Labour is one of North Korea's key exports and sources of cash.

Arriving in Russian Federation on Wednesday, Kim said he hoped for a "successful and useful" summit.

Soviet officers installed ambitious young nationalist Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of North Korea's current ruler and an ex-guerrilla commander who fought Japanese forces from Manchuria in the 1930s, as the Korean leader of the emerging state on the northern half the peninsula.

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