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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
Updated at 1615 KST to include details from an official report by the Administration of Primorsky Krai, and at 1630 to include additional comments from Governor Kozhemyako
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un wrapped up his first trip to Russia Friday with a salute to fallen soldiers and a lunch at a restaurant his father visited in 2002, before departing Vladivostok at 15:30 local time.
In a farewell ceremony outside the city’s main train station starting just after 15:00, a military band played the two countries’ national anthems for Kim and Far East Development Minister Alexander Kozlov, who has served as his primary host throughout the trip.
He was seen off on the train platform by the core group of Russian officials besides Kozlov present during his stay: Primorye Governor Oleg Kozhemyako, vice foreign minister Igor Morgulov, and Russian ambassador to the DPRK Alexander Matsegora.
Reporters hurled questions at Kim Jong Un as he stood at his train door waiting for the train to leave, but he did not respond.
Earlier on Friday, Kim attended a wreath-laying ceremony in his name at the Military Glory of the Pacific Fleet, a monument attached to the Pacific Fleet headquarters near the main train station.
The event was originally scheduled for 10:00 local time, but appears to have been delayed for a couple of hours due to rain.
An official report from the Administration of Primorsky Krai hinted at the purpose of Kim’s visit there, saying “Korean citizens were among those who forged the Victory” for Russia over the Axis powers in World War II.
Afterwards, Kim traveled just north of downtown Vladivostok to have lunch with Primorye Governor Oleg Kozhemyako at a restaurant where his father Kim Jong Il also visited in 2002.
Russia’s RIA Novosti reported the two ate a range of wild game for a 90-minute lunch at the luxury log cabin-themed Forest Zaimka restaurant, also saying “a number of representatives of regional companies” would attend.
Another report from the Administration of Primorsky Krai said “negotiations took place with Russian business,” but did not specify if these took place during the lunch or elsewhere.
“Among the most promising areas of cooperation are tourism and cultural exchanges,” it said.
One long-awaited joint economic project was also reportedly discussed, according to the report, which said that “jointly with the Ministry of Far East Development, work will continue on the implementation of a project to build a bridge across the Tumen River.”
Negotiations on the road bridge planned to complement the existing cross-border rail bridge have been ongoing in recent months, most recently during a visit to Pyongyang by Russian State Duma lawmakers.”
“We will now prepare a feasibility study. The Ministry of Far East Development deals with issues related to design and proposals for work in this direction,” Kozhemyako said in additional comments carried by RIA.
Russia’s Interfax News Agency also reported that Kozhemyako requested the North Koreans facilitate smoother visa processing for Russian tourists traveling to the DPRK, perhaps even setting up an e-visa system that the Far East region offers to visitors.
But while Kim Jong Il also visited a number of economic sites in Vladivostok such as a baked goods manufacturer and a department store, Kim Jong Un appears to have skipped such locations on this trip.
The North Korean leader first arrived in Russia on Wednesday morning, holding a meeting with Kozlov at the border station of Khasan, where he reportedly called the visit “only the first step” and said he intends to visit again.
Governor Kozhemyako also said on Friday in the official report that “our city made a good impression” on Kim Jong Un and that the North Korean leader “noted that he would always be happy to come back here.”
The big event – a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin – commenced on Thursday afternoon at the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) in Vladivostok.
During the summit, Kim told pool reporters the two discussed the “situation of the Korean peninsula” – a reference to ongoing denuclearization negotiations – with Putin later revealing the North’s primary focus remains on winning security guarantees.
A report from DPRK state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also said Friday morning the two sides sought to “put the equally beneficial economic and trade relations between the two countries on a higher stage.”
Barring any other stops in North Korea, his train is expected to arrive back in Pyongyang on Saturday.
Featured image: Administration of Primorsky Krai