Russia confirms Putin-Kim talks for 'second half of April'

Moscow's announcement comes after Pyongyang slams US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, claims new missile test conducted.

    The Putin-Kim meet will likely take place in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok, according to Russian media reports [File: Jorge Silva/Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters]
    The Putin-Kim meet will likely take place in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok, according to Russian media reports [File: Jorge Silva/Maxim Shipenkov/Reuters]

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will travel to Russia later this month to meet President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said.

    Chairman Kim will be in Russia "in the second half of April" on Putin's invitation, it said in a statement on Thursday but gave no further details. The meeting will be the first of its kind between the two leaders.

    Russia's Izvestia newspaper cited a diplomatic source on Wednesday as saying the talks would likely be held in Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok, before Putin flies on to an April 26-27 summit in China.

    A North Korean official, Kim Chang Son, travelled to Vladivostok this week and was seen on Wednesday inspecting the city's train station and making security checks, Russia's RIA news agency reported on Thursday, citing a station official.

    The Kremlin's announcement came just hours after Pyongyang's foreign ministry denounced US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as "reckless" and called for him to be removed from negotiations between Washington and North Korean officials over long-running nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

    Pyongyang also said it had conducted its first weapons test since the last summit between US President Donald Trump and Kim in Vietnam in February broke down with no agreement, claiming it launched a new kind of weapon with a "powerful warhead".

    US 'ready to engage'

    Pyongyang and Washington have been at loggerheads since the collapse of the Hanoi summit, the second meeting of its kind after the pair held talks in Singapore in June 2018.

    The posturing comes after Kim expressed deep disappointment earlier this month with what North Korea claims were inflexible, "gangster-like" demands by the US in Hanoi.

    Though Kim claims he still has a good personal relationship with the US president, he and senior North Korean officials have shown increasing frustration with Trump's top advisers Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

    "The Hanoi summit gives us a lesson that whenever Pompeo pokes his nose in, the talks go wrong without any results even from the point close to success," Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the American desk at North Korea's foreign ministry, was quoted as saying on Thursday.

    "I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but [some] other person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us," said Kwon.

    Full denuclearisation

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    Responding to Pyongyang's remarks, a spokesperson for the US State Department said on Thursday that Washington remained "ready to engage" with North Korea in a "constructive" manner.

    The United States was aware of the North Korean foreign ministry's demand regarding Pompeo, the spokesperson added, but did not provide any further comment.

    Pompeo, who travelled four times to North Korea last year, has voiced hope for a deal with North Korea but also stood firm in calling for the country to commit to full denuclearisation before the US eases sanctions.

    US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday to meet Russian officials to discuss ways to advance a "final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea", the US said.

    Russia has maintained relatively warm ties with Pyongyang and continued to provide food aid to the country, with Putin repeatedly expressing his readiness to meet Kim.

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    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies