Smil­ing Kim ar­rives by train in Rus­sia for his Putin summit

The News-Times - - NATION/WORLD -

VLADI­VOS­TOK, Rus­sia — A smil­ing and up­beat Kim Jong Un ar­rived Wed­nes­day in far­east­ern Rus­sia aboard an ar­mored train for a much-an­tic­i­pated summit with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin that comes amid dead­locked global diplo­macy over the North Korean leader’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Both lead­ers have high hopes for their first one-on-one meet­ing: Kim for a win after his failed sec­ond summit with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and Putin for a chance to raise Moscow’s clout in the re­gion and gain more lever­age with Wash­ing­ton.

Speaking to Rus­sia’s sta­te­owned Ros­siya-24, Kim said he was hop­ing for a “suc­cess­ful and use­ful” visit and would like to dis­cuss with Putin the “set­tle­ment of the sit­u­a­tion in the Korean Penin­sula” as well as bi­lat­eral ties with Rus­sia.

It was Kim’s first visit to Rus­sia as North Korean leader; his late fa­ther, Kim Jong Il, vis­ited Rus­sia in 2011. The North Korean leader evoked his fa­ther’s “great love for Rus­sia” and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two coun­tries.

“I have heard a lot about your coun­try and have long dreamt of vis­it­ing it,” Kim was quoted as say­ing at his first stop, Rus­sia’s Khasan train sta­tion, near the bor­der with North Korea. “It’s been seven years since I took the helm, and I’ve only just man­aged to visit.”

He then trav­eled on to the Rus­sian Pa­cific port city of Vladi­vos­tok, the site of Thurs­day’s summit, where he was greeted by a mil­i­tary orches­tra as he stepped out of his khaki­green ar­mored train. Dressed in a black coat and clutch­ing a black fe­dora, he then got into his per­sonal limou­sine, which trav­els with him, and drove away.

Putin’s for­eign af­fairs ad­viser, Yuri Ushakov, told Rus­sian me­dia the Putin-Kim summit would fo­cus on North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram, not­ing that Rus­sia will seek to “con­sol­i­date the pos­i­tive trends” stem­ming from Trump’s meet­ings with Kim.

In Fe­bru­ary, Kim’s sec­ond summit with Trump in Hanoi ended with­out any agree­ment be­cause of dis­putes over U.S.led sanc­tions. There have since been no pub­licly known high­level con­tacts between the U.S. and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.

Kim wants the U.S. to ease the sanc­tions to re­cip­ro­cate for some par­tial dis­ar­ma­ment steps he took last year. But the U.S. main­tains the sanc­tions will stay in place un­til North Korea makes more sig­nif­i­cant de­nu­cle­ariza­tion moves.

Some experts say Kim could try to bol­ster his coun­try’s ties with Rus­sia and China. Oth­ers say it’s not clear how big of a role Rus­sia can play in ef­forts to restart the nu­clear ne­go­ti­a­tions. Still, the summit could al­low Putin to try to in­crease his in­flu­ence in re­gional pol­i­tics and the stand­off over North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram.

Igor Novikov / As­so­ci­ated Press

In this photo re­leased by the press of­fice of the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pri­morsky Krai re­gion, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, cen­ter left, sur­rounded by Rus­sian and North Korea’s of­fi­cials walks, after ar­riv­ing in Vladi­vos­tok, Rus­sia, Wed­nes­day.

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