Russia invites North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to Moscow

Foreign minister passes on Vladimir Putin's 'warmest regards and best wishes'

Samuel Osborne
Thursday 31 May 2018 15:22 BST
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North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, shakes hands with Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as he visits Pyongyang for an official visit
North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, shakes hands with Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, as he visits Pyongyang for an official visit (EPA/HANDOUT Russian Foreign Ministry)

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been invited to Moscow by Russia’s foreign minister.

Sergei Lavrov extended the offer as he met the leader of the secretive communist state in Pyongyang, ahead of a possible summit between Donald Trump and Mr Kim in June where the pair are expected to discuss tensions over Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

Mr Lavrov’s visit to the North Korean capital suggests Russia wants to convey Moscow’s concerns and keep abreast of North Korea’s intentions.

He passed on Vladimir Putin’s “warmest regards and best wishes” for Mr Kim’s “big endeavours” on the Korean peninsula and invited him to Moscow.

“Come to Russia. We would be very happy to see you,” Mr Lavrov, seated across a table from Mr Kim, said on footage aired on TV.

He expressed Moscow’s support for the declaration between North and South Korea to work towards the denuclearisation of the peninsula, which they agreed last month.

Russia’s foreign minister also held talks with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho.

Donald Trump says North Korea summit 'could still happen'

Mr Lavrov said Moscow hoped all sides would take a delicate approach to the possible talks on nuclear disarmament on the peninsula and not try to rush the process.

“This will allow for the realisation not only of the denuclearisation of the whole Korean peninsula but also to provide sustainable peace and stability across north-east Asia,” Mr Lavrov was quoted as saying by his ministry.

He said Russia supported denuclearisation and the border effort to create a stable and long-lasting peace in the region, but indicated Moscow believes sanctions can be eased while the process is in progress, diverging from the US position denuclearisation must come first.

“It’s absolutely obvious that when a conversation starts about solving the nuclear problem and other problems of the Korean Peninsula, we proceed from the fact that the decision can’t be complete while sanctions are still in place,” he said.

It was Mr Lavrov’s first trip to North Korea since 2009, news agencies in the country reported.

“We welcome the contacts that have been developing in the recent months between North and South Korea, between North Korea and the United States,” Mr Lavrov said in comments to the media. “We welcome the summits that already took place between Pyongyang and Seoul as well as planned meetings between North Korean and US leadership.”

Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea, during his dinner meeting with the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in New York
Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of North Korea, during his dinner meeting with the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in New York (US Department of State via AFP/Getty Images)

It comes after one of Mr Kim's top lieutenants and former intelligence chiefs, Kim Yong-chol, met with US officials in New York to discuss the agenda for the summit with Mr Trump.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, hosted a dinner for the most senior North Korean official to visit the US in 20 years.

Additional reporting by agencies

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