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More signals of a Kim-Putin summit coming

Oct 24,2018
A delegation of officials from North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party departed Pyongyang on Monday for Russia, adding fuel to speculation that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin is nigh.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Monday in a brief article that the delegation was led by Ryu Myong-son, vice department director of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee. The report did not explain the purpose of the visit or whom the delegates were expected to meet in Russia.

Moscow announced multiple times recently that it was in talks with Pyongyang to hold a summit between their leaders, but no details, including a date and precise venue, have been released.

Russia’s state-run news agency, TASS, cited Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, as saying Monday that no date or venue have been agreed to yet.

“A lot of cities have been named as possible venues for such a meeting,” Peskov was quoted as telling journalists when asked whether Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East could be the host. Peskov said earlier this month that an invitation for Kim to visit Russia was conveyed, and that both countries were consulting on the matter.

Kim has only traveled to a foreign country five known times since rising to power in December 2011 following the death of his father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. All five trips were made this year, including three to China to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping, one to South Korea on April 27 to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the truce village of Panmunjom and one to Singapore to hold a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Speculation that a Kim-Putin summit was near spiked earlier this month when North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui was seen at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow on Oct. 6, a day before U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in Pyongyang for his fourth visit to the North to lay the groundwork for the second U.S.-North summit.

During her stay in Moscow, Choe held a three-way meeting with the deputy foreign ministers of Russia and China, TASS reported at the time.

Shin Beom-cheol, head of the National Security and Unification Center at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said that Pyongyang is trying to gain negotiating power against Washington in denuclearization talks by strengthening its alliance with both Moscow and Beijing.

With this year marking the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Russia and North Korea, Putin highlighted potential economic projects between Russia and the two Koreas last Thursday while mentioning Moscow’s “positive role” in working for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]