North Korea’s Kim arrives in Russia before summit with Putin

By Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Wednesday morning ahead of his much-anticipated summit with president Vladimir Putin.

North Korean media published photos of Mr Kim saluting an honour guard and waving to people carrying flowers at a railway station before boarding his khaki-green armoured train for the lengthy journey.

Russian news agency Tass quoted a local official as saying Mr Kim was given flowers, bread and salt at the Hasan train station after crossing the border.

Preparations for the meeting in Vladivostok, a port city on the Pacific, on Thursday, were held in secrecy because of North Korean security concerns, Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said.

Mr Ushakov said the talks would focus on the standoff over the North’s nuclear programme, noting that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from US president Donald Trump’s meetings with Mr Kim.

Mr Kim reportedly inspected an honour guard before leaving (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

The secretive leader will be the first North Korean premier to travel to Russia since his late father, Kim Jong Il, visited in 2011.

Mr Kim has had two summits with Mr Trump, but the latest in Vietnam in February collapsed because North Korea wanted more relief from sanctions than Washington was willing to give for the amount of nuclear disarmament offered by Pyongyang.

Some experts say Mr Kim could try to bolster his country’s ties with Russia and China as he has increasingly expressed frustration at the lack of US steps to match the partial disarmament moves he took last year.

It is not clear how big of a role Russia can play in efforts to restart the nuclear diplomacy.

But the summit could allow Mr Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear programme.

A worker adjusts the flag of Russia and North Korea along the road in Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, on Tuesday (Naoya Osato/Kyodo News via AP)

Mr Putin’s adviser added that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favourable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula,” Mr Ushakov said.

He pointed at a Russia-China roadmap that offered a step-by-step approach to solving the nuclear standoff and called for sanctions relief and security guarantees to Pyongyang.

He noted that the North’s moratorium on nuclear tests and scaling down of US-South Korean military drills helped reduce tensions and created conditions for further progress.

Mr Ushakov said the Putin-Kim summit’s agenda will also include bilateral cooperation.

He added that Russia’s trade with North Korea is minuscule at just 34 million dollars (£26.3m) last year, mostly because of the international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Russia would like to gain broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals.

Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia’s electricity supplies and wants to attract Russian investment to modernise its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.

Mr Kim has had two summits with US President Donald Trump (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

In the meantime, Vladivostok has been seeing a number of unusually strict security measures.

Maritime authorities said on Tuesday that the waters around Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, would be closed to all maritime traffic between Wednesday morning and Friday morning.

The island, which is home to a university with a conference hall, is seen as a likely summit venue.

Separately, local media reported that some platforms at Vladivostok’s main train station would be closed for several days, and that buses will be rerouted from the train station on Wednesday.

News website Vl.ru reported that municipal authorities undertook road works to make the entryway in and out of the train station less steep — presumably to allow Kim’s limousine to drive straight out from the platform.