The flags of Russia and North Korea (right) can be seen along the road on Russky Island on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 in Vladivostok (Russia). Russian President Vladimir Putin Will Meet with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un on a Highly Expected Summit Next Thursday, a Kremlin consultant said he would put an end to weeks of speculation when and where it would take place.
Seoul, South Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived by train in Russia on Wednesday, one day ahead of his eagerly awaited summit with President Vladimir Putin, in the midst of deadlocked nuclear program diplomacy.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap posted photos of Kim, dressed in a black coat and a fedora, and met with Russian officials at the Russian Hasan station near the border to the north. Russian news agency Tass quoted a local official as saying that Kim had given flowers, bread and salt at the station.
Kim traveled with Putin to the Pacific port of Vladivostok on Thursday. He was the first North Korean leader to travel to Russia since his late father Kim Jong Il was there in 2011.
Last Wednesday, the North's state media confirmed that Kim had boarded his khaki-green armored train from an unknown location in North Korea. Yonhap quoted an analysis of North Korean photos about Kim's departure and speculated that Kim may have come from a rural area, not from Pyongyang.
Kim is expected to arrive in Vladivostok late Wednesday afternoon and attend a dinner hosted by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, the South Korean media said. After his summit with Putin, Kim may be able to visit neighboring facilities or attractions before leaving for home on Friday, reports said.
Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian media that the summit will focus on North Korea's nuclear program. Russia will try to "consolidate the positive trends" resulting from President Donald Trump's meeting with Kim.
In February, Kim's second summit with Trump ended in Hanoi due to disputes over US-led sanctions without any agreement. Since then, there have been no publicly known high-level contacts between the US and North Korea, although both sides state that they are still open for a third summit.
Kim wants the US to relax the sanctions in order to carry out some disarmament steps that he did last year. However, the US claims that the sanctions will remain in place until North Korea takes greater steps towards denuclearization.
Some experts say Kim may try to strengthen his country's relations with Russia and China. Others say it is not clear what role Russia can play in the effort to restart nuclear negotiations. The summit could enable Putin to try to increase his influence in regional policy and in dealing with North Korea's nuclear program.
"Kim wants to show that he is also cooperating with Russia instead of just looking at the US and China, but I think it is not easy for Russia and China to provide practical assistance to North Korea leading to an influx of dollars," said Chon Hyun-joon, a former senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul.
North Korea has become increasingly angry about the stalled negotiations. Last week, North Korea tested a new weapon and demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be eliminated from the nuclear talks.
Putin's advisor added that the Kremlin will try to help create "conditions and a favorable atmosphere to make firm agreements on the problem of the Korean peninsula," Ushakov said.
Ushakov pointed to a Russia-China roadmap that provided a gradual approach to resolving the nuclear dispute and called for sanctions and security guarantees for Pyongyang. He pointed out that the Northern Moratorium on nuclear testing and the reduction of US and South Korean military drilling has helped reduce tensions and created conditions for further progress.
Ushakov said the Putin-Kim agenda would also include bilateral cooperation. He added that Russia's trade with North Korea last year was tiny at just $ 34 million, mainly due to international sanctions against Pyongyang.
Russia wants to gain wider access to North Korea's mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang is looking for Russian power supplies and investments to modernize run-down Soviet industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.
Vladivostok has since experienced a series of unusually stringent security measures. The maritime authorities said that the waters around the island of Russky on the southern tip of Vladivostok would be temporarily closed to all maritime traffic.
The island has a university with a conference hall and is considered a likely summit.
Regardless, local media reported that some platforms at Vladivostok central station were closed for a few days and buses were diverted from the station on Wednesday. News website Vl.ru reported on the road construction to make up for the driveway at the station, possibly to get Kim's limousine straight off the platform.