Russian President Vladimir Putin has sat down for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, saying the summit should help plan joint efforts to resolve a stand-off over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.
Speaking at the start of the talks at a university on the Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok, Mr Putin voiced confidence that Mr Kim’s visit will “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”.
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.
Mr Putin meanwhile wants to expand Russia’s influence in the region and get more leverage with Washington.
“We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalize North Korea’s relations with the United States,” Mr Putin told Mr Kim.
For his part, Mr Kim noted that with the world’s attention now concentrated on the Korean Peninsula, “I think we will have a very meaningful dialogue on sharing our opinions on this matter while also jointly apprising and studying it”.
He also congratulated the Russian leader on his reelection to another six-year term last year.
In February, Trump-Kim talks ended without any agreement because of disputes over US-led sanctions.
There have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the US and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.
Mr 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 denuclearisation moves.
North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations.
Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.
Mr Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday on board an armoured train, telling Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia would “successful and useful”.
He evoked his father’s “great love for Russia” and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries.
The late Kim Jong Il made three trips to Russia, last time in 2011.
Like the US, Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang’s nuclear bid. Mr Putin has welcomed President Trump’s meetings with Mr Kim, but urged the US to do more to assure Pyongyang over security concerns.
Speaking before the talks, Mr Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from Trump-Kim meetings.
He noted that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favourable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula”.