North Korea is making headlines again this week, but not because of Kim Jong Un’s interactions with U.S. President Donald Trump. Rather, Kim met for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Russky Island near Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, just north of what some call “the hermit kingdom,” or North Korea.
After a two-hour one-on-one meeting with Kim held on the campus of Far Eastern Federal University, President Vladimir Putin voiced confidence that there is a real possibility to change the equation on the Korean peninsula – but only in case all players involved respect each other’s interests and abandon the “fist law” in international affairs.
"North Korea needs guarantees of security and preservation of sovereignty for the denuclearization and disarmament,” Putin said, pushing back against Washington’s demands that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons completely before offering anything in exchange.
“Most importantly, it is necessary to restore international law, and we talked about this today in the course of negotiations," TASS quoted Putin as saying following the talks. “We need to return to a situation where international law, but not the fist law determines the situation in the world."
Kim’s first trip to Russia comes nearly two months after a failed summit with Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, which ended without any progress toward an agreement, mainly due to the dispute over American sanctions imposed on North Korea and the Trump administration’s demand that they remain until Kim proves final, fully verifiable denuclearization. Conversely, Kim appears unwilling to budge on his demand that the U.S. allow for denuclearization simultaneously with a phased approach to lifting sanctions – a tactic that has failed in the past because North Korea has reportedly lied about its nuclear program.
While negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have stalled, as have those between North and South Korea, Russo-North Korean relations may be ratcheting up. Although Russia opposes the further development of North Korea's nuclear program, the government stands firmly behind a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Speaking with the press following his meeting with Kim on Thursday, Putin said that Washington and Moscow have a common interest in preventing nuclear proliferation, in North Korea and elsewhere.
We are generally against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world,” RIA Novosti quoted Putin as saying during the press conference, where he was answering reporters’ questions without his North Korean colleague. “That is why a significant part of the steps is coordinated within the UN."
"If the North Korean partners, I mean first of all to the Americans, will express their willingness to have a constructive dialogue, I think that, to that end, it is impossible to do so without negotiations," TASS quoted the Russian president as saying at the press conference." Therefore, it seems to me that there is no other way."