Kim and Putin discuss denuclearization in the first summit

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VLADIVOSTOK, Russia — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a historic one-on-one meeting Thursday on an island just off Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.

The summit took place at Far Eastern Federal University where flags of both countries decorated the main halls. Talks centered on denuclearization and sanctions, with the two leaders agreeing to work more closely on those issues.

At the start of the summit, Putin told Kim that he believes Kim’s visit will help the two countries come to an understanding over how to reach a settlement on the Korean Peninsula and develop bilateral ties. Kim said the meeting with Putin will help the two leaders assess issues on the Korean Peninsula and coordinate their positions.

For Kim, the summit was a chance to gain support from Putin over Pyongyang’s deadlocked nuclear negotiations with the U.S. Kim wants Putin’s support in loosening sanctions imposed on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program and appears to be betting a closer relationship with the Russian president will give him additional leverage with Washington.

On the other hand, for Putin, the summit offered a chance to highlight Moscow’s importance as a player in the discussions over North Korea and its future.

The summit began with a one-on-one discussion about the process of denuclearization, followed by a second session on broader negotiations involving top officials from both sides.

After his meeting with Putin, Kim said the two had a “very meaningful one-on-one exchange of opinions on issues of mutual interest and current issues.”

The North Korean leader also said that he wanted “to discuss issues of strategic stability and joint management of the situation in the future, and to develop our traditional relations to meet the demands of a new century.”

Kim’s visit to Russia is the first by a North Korean leader since his father, Kim Jong Il, traveled to the country in 2011. On Wednesday, Kim told Russian state television he hoped for successful discussions with Putin.

The North Korean leader’s recent talks with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam may be weighing on Kim’s mind. In February, Kim visited Hanoi for his second summit with Trump. But despite the high degree of attention it received, the talks aimed at “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula ended without an agreement. They became snagged after Pyongyang insisted on immediate and full relief from the punishing economic sanctions.

North Korea and the U.S. remain at an impasse over the issue, with Washington demanding Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program first, while the North seeks economic assistance and a peace deal in exchange for giving up its weapons.

Since the collapse of Kim’s summit with Trump, North Korea has made threats and moves to restore a missile launch site that it previously said had been dismantled. It also conducted a test on a new tactical guided missile.

Nikkei staff writer Jada Nagumo in Tokyo contributed to this report.

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