April 25, 2019 3:29:50 AM
Russian president Vladimir Putin has arrived at Vladivostok for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
The summit on Thursday reflects Russia’s effort to position itself as an essential player in the North Korean nuclear standoff.
Mr Kim’s first trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with Donald Trump, which failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
The Russian and Korean leaders are set to have a one-on-one meeting at the Far Eastern State University on Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok.
The meeting will be followed by broader talks involving officials from both sides.
Mr Kim arrived in Vladivostok on Wednesday aboard his armoured train, saying upon arrival that he is hoping for a “successful and useful” visit.
It is Mr 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.
Mr Putin’s foreign affairs adviser, Yuri Ushakov, told Russian media the summit would focus on North Korea’s nuclear programme, noting that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from Mr Trump’s meetings with Mr Kim.
In February, Mr Kim’s second summit with Mr Trump in Hanoi 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.
Some experts say Mr Kim could try to bolster his country’s ties with Russia and China.
Others say it is not clear how big of a role Russia can play in efforts to restart the nuclear negotiations.
Still, the summit could allow Mr Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear programme.