World Politics

Spurned by Washington, North Korea's Kim seeks a friend in Putin

Key Points
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Vladimir Putin met for their unprecedented summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok.
  • Kim told Putin the meeting would help strengthen and develop ties between Russia and North Korea, which share a long history of friendship. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands as they pose for a picture prior to their talks at the Far Eastern Federal University campus on Russky island in the far-eastern Russian port of Vladivostok on April 25, 2019.
Alexander Zemlianichenko | AFP | Getty Images

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday at a summit designed to show that Washington is not the only power able to set the agenda on Pyongyang's nuclear program.

The two men embarked on a day of talks on an island off the Russian Pacific city of Vladivostok two months after Kim's summit with U.S. President Donald Trump ended in disagreement, cooling hopes of a breakthrough in the  decades-old nuclear row.

Putin and Kim, in their first ever face-to-face encounter, shook hands outside the summit venue, a university campus, then sat down in a conference room to exchange greetings in front of the television cameras.

Putin said he hoped Kim's visit would "help us better understand by what means we can reach a settlement on the Korean peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes now underway."

"Without question we welcome your efforts to develop dialogue between the Koreas, and to normalize North Korean-U.S. relations," Putin said.

Kim, who had arrived in Vladivostok a day earlier on board his armored train, told Putin the meeting would help strengthen and develop ties between Russia and North Korea, which share a long history of friendship. 

"As world attention is focused on the Korean Peninsula, there will be very meaningful dialogue for us to jointly assess the Korean peninsula policies and share, coordinate and study our views," Kim said.

The summit in Vladivostok provides Pyongyang with an opportunity to seek support from a new quarter, Russia, and possible relief from the sanctions hurting its economy.

For the Kremlin, the summit is a chance to show it is a global diplomatic player, despite efforts by the United States and other Western states to isolate it.

But with Moscow committed to upholding sanctions until the North dismantles its nuclear program, analysts said the summit was unlikely to produce any tangible help for Pyongyang, beyond a show of camaraderie.