North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have met for their first ever summit and pledged to boost ties between the two countries. The Kremlin said the leaders would discuss denuclearisation, but Mr Kim is also expected to be seeking support after his talks with the US collapsed. The Russian president said the talks should help plan joint efforts to resolve a stand-off over Pynongyang’s nuclear program. Mr Kim’s first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North. Putin meanwhile wants to expand Russia’s clout in the region and get more leverage with Washington.
Mr Kim said he hoped for “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”.
He also congratulated the Russian leader on his re-election to another six-year term last year. Since Mr Kim’s talks with Mr Trump broke down, there has been no publicly known high-level contacts between the US and North Korea, although both sides have said they were still open to a third summit. Kim wants the US to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial disarmament steps he took last year. But the US 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.
How close are Russia and North Korea?
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally. Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.