Vladimir Putin ready to meet Kim Jong-un to discuss 'urgent issues', says North Korean state media

Russian president expresses hope leaders will discuss 'bilateral relations and important matters'

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 15 August 2018 15:06 BST
Vladimir Putin ready to meet Kim Jong-un to discuss 'urgent issues', says North Korean state media

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Vladimir Putin has said he is ready to meet North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, “at an early date”, the north’s state media reported.

The Russian president congratulated Mr Kim in a telegram to mark North Korea’s national liberation day, which commemorates the end of the Second World War and the north’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, the KCNA news agency reported.

“I affirm that I am ready to meet you at an early date to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations and important matters of the region,” Mr Putin said in the message, without offering a specific date.

He also expressed hope the countries would “continue to develop cooperation for mutual benefits including the realisation of the tripartite project” which would also involve South Korea.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed Mr Putin had sent the telegram in which he “stressed his desire and readiness to establish a dialogue,” Channel NewsAsia reported.

In June, Mr Putin invited Mr Kim and South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, to an economic forum due to take place in Vladivostok next month. It is unclear whether the North Korean leader responded.

When Mr Peskov was asked whether the two leaders could meet in Vladivostok, he said the economic forum is ”open for all the leaders of the region” but said Moscow has “so far” received no confirmation from Pyongyang to indicate Mr Kim will attend.

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Mr Kim also sent a message to Mr Putin, KCNA reported, noting the “valuable tradition” as they “struggled shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy in the arduous anti-Japanese war”, which it said provided the “strong roots” for their diplomatic relations.

It was unclear if the message came before or after Mr Putin’s invitation.

It comes as North Korea marked its liberation from Japanese rule with relatively low-key celebrations.

A group of war veterans from the former Soviet Union participated and thousands of people cheered their football team to victory over a South Korean squad in the opening match of an under-15 youth tournament in Pyongyang, which featured players from several countries.

People also streamed to statues of the country’s leaders or other monuments to observe the anniversary, as is customary.

North Korea has been preparing for an extravagant celebration for its national foundation day on 9 September.

The festivities are intended to be a spectacular homage to Mr Kim’s campaign to bolster his country’s image abroad and ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula through diplomacy with its neighbours and the US.

Diplomacy with China and Russia appears to be progressing, with reports Chinese tourism to North Korea is already on the rise.

But it remains to be seen whether the initially successful negotiations between the north and Washington will progress, after Pyongyang called on Washington to make a stronger effort to build confidence and assure its security before it gives up its nuclear weapons.

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