|North Korean leader Kim Jong-un waves at an undisclosed train station in North Korea on April 24, before leaving for Russia. AP|
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is set to arrive by train in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Wednesday afternoon for a much anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin the following day.
Accompanied by top party, military and state officials, Kim arrived at Russia’s border city of Khasan in the morning on his way to Vladivostok, hours after the North’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on his departure for Russia earlier in the day.
His entourage included two vice chairmen of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee — Kim Phyong-Hae and O Su-yong — and top diplomats, Ri Yong-ho and Choe Son-hui, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency.
The state media did not mention whether first lady Ri Sol-ju was on board.
Kim Yong-chol, one of the North’s key nuclear negotiators involved in talks with the United States, was not mentioned either. It is the first time that he has not accompanied the leader on an overseas trip.
The Kremlin has confirmed that the summit will occur in Vladivostok on Thursday. It stressed that Russia would be the first country that Kim visits after his recent reelection as the chairman of the State Affairs Commission, the country’s highest administrative apparatus.
Due to his domestic schedule, Putin is expected to arrive in Vladivostok on Thursday. But Yury Trutnev, Russia’s deputy prime minister and presidential plenipotentiary envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, could welcome Kim at a Vladivostok station.
The Putin-Kim summit is likely to take place at Far Eastern Federal University as Kim’s security and protocol staffers have been spotted making final summit preparations, with the national flags of Russia and the North hung on campus light poles.
The summit agenda is expected to center on peace efforts on the divided peninsula, economic cooperation and bilateral ties.
Thursday’s summit will be the first one between the leaders of the two countries in eight years, after Kim’s father and the North’s former leader, Kim Jong-il, met then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011.
It marks the first time for Kim to travel abroad after his February summit in Hanoi with U.S. President Donald Trump ended without a deal as they failed to find common ground over the scope of Pyongyang’s denuclearization and Washington’s sanctions relief.
In Washington, the State Department stressed the importance of North Korea’s denuclearization.
“The United States and the international community is committed to the same goal — the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. It is Chairman Kim’s commitment to denuclearization upon which the world is focused,” a department spokesperson said when asked to comment on the Kim-Putin summit.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun and his Russian counterpart, Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov, will continue consultations to “bridge any gaps on the way forward,” the spokesperson added. (Yonhap)
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