SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Tuesday confirmed that leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin. The summit would come at a crucial moment for tenuous diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nuclear arsenal, following a recent North Korean weapons test that likely signals Kim’s growing frustration with deadlocked negotiations with Washington.
The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency released a terse, two-sentence statement that announced Kim “will soon pay a visit to the Russian Federation,” and that he and Putin “will have talks.” A date for the meeting was not immediately released, and it wasn’t clear if Kim would fly or take his armored train. There are some indications that the meeting will be held in the far-eastern port of Vladivostok, not too far from Russia’s border with the North.
The Kremlin said in a brief statement last week that Kim will visit Russia “in the second half of April,” but gave no further details.
Russia is interested in gaining broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang covets Russia’s electricity supplies and wants to attract Russian investment to modernize its dilapidated industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.
Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump have had two summits, but the latest, in Vietnam in February, collapsed because North Korea wanted more sanctions relief than Washington was willing to give for the amount of disarmament offered by Pyongyang.
As the standoff continued, the North last week announced that it had tested what it called a new type of “tactical guided weapon.” While unlikely to be a prohibited test of a medium- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle the negotiations, the announcement signaled the North’s growing disappointment with the diplomatic breakdown — and its apparent willingness to turn back to the kinds of missile tests that in 2017 had many in Asia fearing war.
The North also demanded that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the talks, and on Saturday criticized White House national security adviser John Bolton for calling on North Korea to show more evidence of its disarmament commitment before a possible third leaders’ summit.