Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 27 May 2019

Vladimir Putin urges better deal for North Korea after talks with Kim Jong-un

The two men embarked on a day of talks on an island off the coast of the Russian Pacific city of Vladivostok

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States may need to offer more robust security guarantees to North Korea before Pyongyang is prepared to give up its nuclear weapons program.

The Russian president’s foray into US-Korean relations on Thursday came during his first direct talks with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The pair met in Russia’s Far East port city of Vladivostok.

"They [the North Koreans] only need guarantees about their security. That's it,” Mr Putin told reporters after talks with Mr Kim. “All of us, together, need to think about this."

The Russian president said he was “deeply convinced that if we get to a situation when some kind of security guarantees are needed from one party, in this case for North Korea, that it won't be possible to get by without international guarantees.”

Mr Putin also said that any agreement with North Korea would only be ultimately successful if it included the United States as well as other international parties. China, Japan and South Korea have previously participated in mediation efforts aimed at encouraging Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arsenal in exchange for sanctions relief.

Mr Putin’s meeting with Mr Kim comes after two landmark summits between the North Korean leader and Mr Trump to discuss denuclearisation.

“It's unlikely that any agreements between two countries will be enough," Mr Putin added.

Mr Kim arrived in Russia on Wednesday morning for his three-day visit in his armoured train where Russia officials welcomed him with flowers and a traditional offering of bread and salt.

Mr Putin reportedly arrived at the venue for the talks on Thursday morning some 30 minutes ahead of Mr Kim, even though the Russian leader has developed a reputation for keeping world leaders waiting for up to several hours.

Ahead of the talks, observers of Russia’s foreign policy were sceptical that Mr Putin and the North Korean leader would be able to achieve tangible results that might shift the stalemate on the peninsula.

“Putin-Kim Jong-un meet in Vladivostok on Thursday will not result in breakthroughs,” said Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Centre think tank in Moscow.

“This is essentially a side-show in the continuing saga between Pyongyang and Washington,” he said. “Russia will seek to score diplomatic points by demonstrating its relevance; North Korea, by showing it has options.”

The historic summit between Russia and North Korea comes just two months after meetings between Mr Kim and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam. However, the negotiations on sanctions relief in return denuclearisation appear to have stalled.

The United Nations has hit North Korea with crippling sanctions in an effort to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. The wide-ranging sanctions ban countries from trading with North Korea or employing its citizens.

In recent years, Russia has been accused of failing to comply with the penalties by selling oil to Mr Kim’s regime and hiring North Korean labourers. It has denied the allegations and aims to have expelled all North Koreans labour migrants by the end of the year.

Russia, which shares a border with North Korea, is concerned that any destabilisation on the peninsula could result in hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing its borders.

Updated: April 25, 2019 04:53 PM

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