North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit the Russian Federation this month, the Kremlin said in a statement on Thursday, confirming weeks of speculation that a DPRK-Russia summit is in works.
The visit comes on the formal invitation of President Vladimir Putin, with the two leaders set to meet for what will be Kim Jong Un’s first summit with a Russian leader and his tenth with a foreign head of state since coming to power.
“Vladimir Putin will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” a statement by the Kremlin carried by the TASS news agency website read.
“Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un will make a visit to Russia in the second half of April at Vladimir Putin’s invitation.”
The news follows reports on Wednesday that the DPRK leader’s chief secretary Kim Chang Son had been spotted in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok, prompting speculation that a Kim-Putin meeting might happen there.
Russia’s RIA Novosti also reported that an official from the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) in Vladivostok had confirmed Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un would meet on the university’s premises sometime in the second half of the month.
The Kremlin is yet to confirm a precise time or location for the visit, and North Korean media is yet to report on any upcoming trip by the leader.
A summit, should it go ahead, will also be the first between the two countries since 2011, when then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with the late-North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.
President Vladimir Putin, too, previously met with Kim Jong Il in 2000 in a summit in Pyongyang. The two later met again in 2002 during a tour of the Russian Far East by the then-North Korean leader.
News of the trip comes almost a year after Russia first extended the invitation, during a visit by the country’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to Pyongyang in May last year.
One expert said any meeting was likely to see “a lot of talk about trilateral cooperation between Moscow, Pyongyang, and Seoul,” as well as North Korean lobbying for a relaxation of international sanctions — particularly those relating to DPRK laborers in Russia.
“Russia will likely welcome North Korea’s freeze on tests and calling for some relaxation of sanctions,” Fyodor Tertitskiy, an expert on North Korean politics and the military, told NK News.
“North Korean and Russian officials will be lobbying Putin to allow workers to stay past Dec 22 (alas, he is unlikely to agree).”
Meanwhile, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun is scheduled to meet with Russian deputy foreign minister Igor Morgulov during a trip to Moscow on Thursday and Friday.
Featured image: Rodong Sinmun