Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean’s Kim Jong-un met Thursday for the start of their first-ever talks, with the Russian leader declaring his support for Pyongyang’s efforts to normalise relations with Washington.
Kim and Putin smiled broadly as they shook hands outside the summit venue in Russia’s Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok, then sat down in a conference room to exchange greetings in front of the television cameras.
The North Korean leader’s trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with US President Donald Trump, which failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
Putin told Kim that he supports ongoing efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and wants to boost economic ties.
“I am confident that your visit today to Russia … will help us to better understand how we can resolve the situation on the Korean peninsula and what Russia can do to support the positive processes that are currently taking place,” Putin said.
“In terms of bilateral relations, we have a lot to do to develop economic relations,” he added.
His North Korean counterpart said he was looking to develop his country’s traditional ties with Russia.
“I think it will be a very useful meeting in developing the relationship between the two countries, who have a long friendship and history, into a more stable and sound one,” Kim said.
“As the world is focused on the Korean peninsula, I think we will hold a very meaningful dialogue,” he added.
The summit in Vladivostok provides Pyongyang with an opportunity to seek support from a new quarter, Russia, and possible relief from the sanctions hurting its economy.
For the Kremlin, the summit is a chance to show it is a global diplomatic player, despite efforts by the United States and other Western states to isolate it.
But with Moscow committed to upholding sanctions until the North dismantles its nuclear programme, analysts said the talks were unlikely to produce any tangible help for Pyongyang, beyond a show of camaraderie.