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N. Korea leader Kim, Putin vow to address Korean Peninsula issue

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, on April 25, 2019. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool)

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Kyodo) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged at their first summit in Vladivostok on Thursday to address issues related to the Korean Peninsula, with attention focusing on whether progress can be made to denuclearize the region.

After shaking hands at the outset of the meeting, Kim told Putin that this opportunity is "meaningful for assessing problems" of the divided peninsula, while Putin said the North Korean leader's visit would help Russia see what it can do to tackle them.

Putin appreciated Kim's efforts to normalize relations with South Korea and the United States.

The two leaders are expected to discuss how U.S.-North Korea denuclearization negotiations should proceed following the collapse of the second summit between Washington and Pyongyang in Hanoi in late February.

Putin and Kim are also likely to exchange views on how to establish a peace mechanism for the peninsula and whether Russia should expand humanitarian assistance to Pyongyang.

Kim -- who is making his first trip to Russia since becoming supreme leader in the wake of the death of his father in 2011 -- is scheduled to stay in Vladivostok at least until Friday. State-run media in the North on Thursday reported Kim's visit to Russia and published photos.

The last visit by a North Korean leader to Russia was made by Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, in August 2011.

In a rare interaction with foreign media, Kim Jong Un told Russian state-run TV on Wednesday that he believes his talks with Putin "will be an opportunity for very useful dialogue aimed at jointly coordinating the regional situation."

Kim has called for the lifting of international economic sanctions designed to prevent Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile development, saying his nation has already taken concrete steps toward denuclearization.

Kim, who has recently pledged to build a "powerful socialist economy," is set to ask for the cooperation of Russia -- one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- in the easing of the economic sanctions.

Moscow, meanwhile, appears to be willing to deepen its economic relations with Pyongyang, given that the economy in Russia's Far Eastern region has long been supported by workers from North Korea.

At their Feb. 27-28 summit in the Vietnamese capital, Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump fell short of bridging the gap between Washington's denuclearization demands and Pyongyang's calls for sanctions relief.

Trump said after the Hanoi summit that North Korea committed to "totally" dismantling its main Yongbyon nuclear complex, but the lifting of the sanctions would require Pyongyang to scrap other nuclear facilities and programs, including undeclared ones.

In his speech at a session of the country's top legislature on April 12, Kim urged the United States to shift its stance in nuclear talks by the end of this year, expressing eagerness to meet again with Trump depending on the attitude Washington adopts.

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