As speculation grows over a possible North Korea-Russia summit next week, Kim Jong Un’s chief secretary Kim Chang Son was caught on camera once again visiting the Far East city of Vladivostok on Wednesday.
Seen walking near the main train station in Vladivostok in the afternoon on April 17, Japan’s Fuji News Network (FNN) asked Kim Chang Son why he was visiting the city, though Kim did not respond.
Russia’s RIA Novosti later reported after speaking to employees of the train station Kim had indeed visited that day to inspect the premises.
“Yes, yesterday he was (here). Many employees saw him. He examined the station for safety,” one employee reportedly told RIA.
— FNN.jpプライムオンライン (@FNN_News) April 17, 2019
The outlet also reported on Wednesday that an official from the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) in Vladivostok had confirmed Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un will meet on the university’s premises sometime in the second half of the month.
The university would be a fitting location for the meeting given its existing ties to a North Korean university which has been in the spotlight of the leadership recently.
Kim Chaek University of Technology (KCUT) and FEFU inked an agreement last November to boost exchanges and “conduct joint research,” with the school’s president Hong So Hon traveling to Vladivostok for the ceremony.
Hong received the vote of Kim Jong Un in last month’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) election, and serves as chairman of the DPRK-Russia Friendship Parliamentary Group, meeting in this capacity with delegations of Russian lawmakers in recent weeks.
Another indication the summit could take place next week are reports of a scheduled flight by North Korean national carrier Air Koryo to Vladivostok on April 23, outside the regular Monday/Friday schedule – possibly carrying security personnel or other summit participants.
This was reportedly denied by Air Koryo representatives in a phone call with RIA Novosti, though the existence of the additional flight itself was confirmed.
An official with the Vladivostok Airport told the news agency it was “an ordinary passenger flight” independently organized by the airline.
Air Koryo flight JS271/272 was also scheduled to fly from Pyongyang to Vladivostok on Thursday morning, also outside its regular schedule, though its arrival could not be confirmed by NK News as of noon.
President Putin’s plans to attend the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing from April 26-27 also suggest a trip to Vladivostok for the summit may occur in the days prior.
Kim Chang Son previously flew into Vladivostok on March 25 on his way back from a five-day trip to Moscow, where South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported he traveled to the Kremlin each day for what are presumed to have been high-level talks on summit planning.
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 April 18-19.
The visit is likely seen as an opportunity for the U.S. to press its position on maintaining strict UN sanctions enforcement in the face of pressure from Pyongyang to provide relief, but possible Kim-Putin summit plans are also likely on the agenda.
Neither Russian or North Korean officials have yet to confirm a specific date or location for the summit, though Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday “preparations for the meeting are underway.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
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Featured Image: DSC06435.ARW by syuu1228 on 2018-07-21 11:44:16