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Putin Praises Kim's Efforts With Rivals04/25 06:30

   VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AP) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin told Kim Jong 
Un he appreciates the North Korean leader's efforts to improve relations 
between the rival Koreas and normalize ties with Washington as the two leaders 
on Thursday began their first summit.

   Speaking at the start of the discussions at a university on the Russky 
Island across a bridge from Vladivostok, Putin voiced confidence that Kim's 
visit will "help better understand what should be done to settle the situation 
on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support 
the positive processes going on now."

   Kim's meeting with Putin follows a year of intense diplomacy the North hopes 
will help it get out from under international sanctions over its nuclear 
weapons and long-range missile programs. Kim has already held four summits with 
Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korean President Moon Jae-on and 
two with President Donald Trump.

   Kim's second summit with Trump in February ended without any agreements, and 
his trip to Russia reflects his desire to put more pressure on Washington and 
show some independence from Beijing as well.

   For Putin, the meeting offers a chance to increase his role as a potential 
broker.

   "We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalize 
North Korea's relations with the United States," Putin told Kim.

   Following their one-on-one meeting at the start of broader talks involving 
officials from both sides, Putin and Kim said they had a good discussion.

   "We discussed the situation on the Korean Peninsula and exchanged opinions 
about what should be done to improve the situation and how to do it," Putin 
said. Kim described the talks as "candid and meaningful."

   "The reason we visited Russia this time is to meet and share opinions with 
your excellency, President Putin, and also share views on the Korean Peninsula 
and regional political situation, which has garnered the urgent attention of 
the world, and also hold deep discussions on strategic ways to pursue stability 
in the regional political situation and on the matters of jointly managing the 
situation," Kim said.

   Looking confident but a bit stiff, Kim also congratulated the Russian leader 
on his reelection to another six-year term last year.

   "Ceaselessly bolstering and developing strategic and traditional relations 
between North Korea and Russia ... is my and my government's firm and 
unwavering position," Kim said later at a state banquet, where he made a toast.

   Since the Trump-Kim talks in February ended without a deal because of 
disputes over U.S.-led sanctions, there have been no publicly known high-level 
contacts between the U.S. and North Korea --- although both sides say they are 
still open to a third summit.

   Kim wants the U.S. to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial 
disarmament steps he took last year. But the U.S. maintains the sanctions will 
stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearization moves.

   North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked 
negotiations. Last week, it demanded U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be 
removed from the talks and strongly criticized national security adviser John 
Bolton.

   In Seoul, President Moon said Thursday he'll try to hold a fourth summit 
with Kim and facilitate the resumption of U.S.-North Korea talks.

   Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday aboard his private train and offered 
what is possibly his first interview ever with a foreign media outlet. He told 
Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia 
would "successful and useful." He evoked his father's "great love for Russia" 
and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries. The late 
Kim Jong Il made three trips to Russia, the last time in 2011.

   Like the U.S., Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang's nuclear bid. 

   Putin has welcomed Trump's meetings with Kim, but urged the U.S. to do more 
to assuage Pyongyang's security concerns.

   Ahead of the talks, Putin's foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said Russia 
will seek to "consolidate the positive trends" stemming from Trump-Kim 
meetings. He noted that the Kremlin would try to help "create preconditions and 
a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the 
Korean Peninsula."

   Dmitri Trenin, the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said Putin will 
likely encourage Kim to continue constructive talks with the U.S., reflecting 
Russia's own worry about the North nuclear and missile programs. "Russia can't 
be expected to side with North Korea and, let's say, support the North Koreans 
all the way in the Security Council, where Russia is a veto wielding member and 
where all sanctions imposed on North Korea require Russia's approval," he said.

   Trenin said Moscow doubts the North could be persuaded to fully abandon its 
nuclear weapons, considering that a "mission impossible."

   "North Korea will not give up the only guarantee of the survival of the 
North Korean state and its regime," Trenin said.

   Russia would also like to gain broader access to North Korea's mineral 
resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia's 
electricity supplies and investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built 
industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.

   Vladivostok, a city of more than half a million on the Sea of Japan, faced 
gridlock on its roads as traffic was blocked in the city center due to Kim's 
visit.

   The authorities have temporarily closed the waters around Russky Island to 
all maritime traffic.

   Kim was expected to return to Pyongyang on Friday. 


(KA)

 
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