Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un have met for the first time, pledging to boost ties and find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear stand-off on the Korean Peninsula.
The North Korean leader travelled by armoured train to the eastern city of Vladivostok in Russia before meeting the president on a remote island off the coast on Thursday.
Kim said the two leaders had a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange of opinions on issues of mutual interest and current issues”, while Putin said he was “satisfied with the results” of the talks, which he said spanned denuclearisation, sanctions and the United States.
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CBS News says Kim travelled to Russia with “a long wish list and a strong desire to notch a win after the failure of his second summit with President Donald Trump”.
The biggest takeaway appears to be North Korea’s willingness to abandon its nuclear programme providing it receives international security guarantees backed by multiple countries in return.
According to the Russian presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which began in 2003 but are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
The Independent reports that “the Kremlin has long sought a summit with the North Korean leader, with analysts saying Putin is ‘desperate to be considered a person of significance on the Korean peninsula, and to use that in diplomatic games with Washington’.”
In addition, “Moscow is interested in gaining broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals”, Sky News reports.
The two nations were staunch allies during the Cold War, but “since the collapse of the Iron Curtain the relationship has suffered”, says the BBC.
“With weakened ideological ties there was no reason for special treatment and support,” the broadcaster reports. “And as a regular trading partner, North Korea was not very attractive to Russia, as it was unable to pay international market prices.”
But Russia’s increasing estrangement with the West has led to revived links with Pyongyang, “based on the old logic that my enemy’s enemy is my friend,” says Professor Andrei Lankov of Seoul’s Kookmin University.
“While military cooperation between the states was stopped by United Nations sanctions, Moscow provided grain and humanitarian aid to the North,” says Deutsche Welle. “Meanwhile, tens of thousands of North Korean migrant laborers have worked in Russia’s underpopulated Far East.”
Kim is hoping Russian investment will help modernise the country’s Soviet-built industrial plants and railways and ease the economic strain caused by Western sanctions.
But “while the meeting is an important gesture for both sides, analysts do not expect Russia to invest heavily in cash-strapped North Korea”, says The Guardian’s Andrew Roth.
For one thing, Putin “has a lot on his plate and good reason to be cautious about making any big new commitments”, says CBS.
He particularly wants to avoid any move that might strain relations with China. Immediately after seeing Kim, Putin is due fly to Beijing for a major international meeting on China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which could be hugely lucrative for Russia.
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