RUSSIA joined North Korea’s ongoing flurry of diplomacy on Thursday when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang, extending an invite for the Supreme Leader to visit Moscow.
It is the first time Lavrov has visited the secret regime since 2009, two years before Kim came to power. His trip comes ahead of highly anticipated talks between the North Korean leader and US President Donald Trump.
During the visit, Kim Jong Un complained of “US hegemonism” and said he hoped to strengthen cooperation with Russia as the hermit kingdom begins to look to international sources to boost its economy.
“As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Kim told Lavrov, as reported by Associated Press.
While Russia was raising its profile in Pyongyang. North Korean and US officials met for a second day of high-level talks in New York.
Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man, Kim Yong Chol, met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to lay the groundwork for a successful summit on June 12.
Pompeo said “real progress” has been made toward setting the conditions needed for Trump and Kim Jong-un to have a successful summit in Singapore.
Pompeo still did not know whether the meeting would proceed on the announced date of 12 June, and said he believed North Korea’s leaders were contemplating a different path forward that would allow their nation to more fully integrate into the international community.
Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu. pic.twitter.com/1pu4K3oym7
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 31, 2018
Kim’s personal meeting with Lavrov was likely a move to try to secure Russia – along with China – as another powerful player that can push the United States to ease sanctions and make other concessions, said Anthony Rinna, a specialist in Korea-Russia relations at Sino-NK, a website that analyses the region.
In the short term, Moscow “cannot afford to be remembered as the country that had no hat in the ring leading up to June 12,” he said.
“Come to Russia. We would be very happy to see you,” Lavrov, seated across a table from Kim, said during a televised meeting.
He expressed Moscow’s support for a declaration last month in which North and South Korea agreed to work for the denuclearisation of the peninsula. He called for phased lifting of sanctions to accompany the gradual denuclearisation exercise.
“As for sanctions, it is absolutely obvious that, as we start discussions on how to resolve the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, it is understood that the solution cannot be comprehensive without the lifting of sanctions,” Lavrov said in a press conference.
“This cannot be achieved at one go,” he added. “There can be no immediate denuclearisation, this should be done step by step and all sides should go half-way during every single phase of this process”.
He said Moscow hoped all sides would take a measured approach to possible forthcoming talks on a nuclear settlement.
Additional reporting by Reuters.