The North Korean leader left at dawn on Wednesday with top government and military officials, according to the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency. It said officials and residents gathered at Pyongyang’s train station to see him off.
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Kim will meet Putin on Thursday in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok to discuss the international standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, a Kremlin official said.
Thursday’s summit will be the first between Putin and the North Korean leader. The “nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula” would be the main item on the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters on Tuesday.
“In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilised somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea’s initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site,” Ushakov said.
“Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend.”
Russia has for years been involved in efforts to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear programme. It took part in so-called “six-party talks”, along with the two Koreas, Japan, the United States and China, that were last held in 2009.
South Korea‘s foreign ministry said it understood the agenda would include Russia-North Korea relations, denuclearisation and regional cooperation.
“Russia shares our viewpoints such as the achievement of complete denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula and the settlement of permanent peace,” foreign ministry spokesman Kim In-chul said in Seoul.
“I hope that the summit will be an opportunity that contributes to positive progress.”
Putin previously held a summit in Russia with Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor as North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il, in 2002.
Kim Jong Il visited Russia again in 2011 when he was hosted by Dmitry Medvedev, the Putin lieutenant who at the time was serving as Russian president.
Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have continued to simmer in the wake of the two summits, with North Korea recently calling for the replacement of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a negotiator.
In addition to the increasing hostility towards Pompeo, North Korea last week tested a “new type of tactical guided weapon”, its state news agency reported. It was the country’s first known weapons test since February’s failed US-North Korea summit in Hanoi.