By NATALIYA VASILYEVA Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a much-anticipated summit on Thursday, a Kremlin adviser said, putting an end to weeks of speculation about when and where it would take place.
Preparations for the meeting in Vladivostok, a Russia city on the Pacific, were held in secrecy because of North Korean security concerns, Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov told Russian news agencies on Tuesday.
Ushakov said that the talks would focus on the North’s nuclear program. Russia would like to see progress on “positive trends” such as the North’s commitment not to test ballistic missiles and would like to contribute to “a favorable environment to achieve solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula,” Ushakov said.
There are also bilateral issues between the two neighboring countries.
Russia would like to gain broader access to North Korea’s mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia’s electricity supplies and wants to attract Russian investment to modernize its dilapidated industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.
In the meantime, Vladivostok has been seeing a number of unusually strict security measures. Maritime authorities said Tuesday that the waters around Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, would be closed to all maritime traffic between Wednesday morning and Friday morning.
The island is home to a university with a conference hall, and is seen as a likely summit venue.
Separately, local media reported that some platforms at Vladivostok’s main train station would be closed for several days, and that buses will be rerouted from the train station Wednesday.
News website Vl.ru reported that municipal authorities undertook road works to make the entryway in and out of the train station less steep — presumably to allow Kim’s motorcade to drive straight out from the platform.
Kim, like his father, avoids air travel and is likely to travel by train to Vladivostok, about 675 kilometers (419 miles) south of Pyongyang.
Earlier on Tuesday, North Korea confirmed the meeting in a terse, two-sentence statement.
North Korea has so far not gotten what it wants most from the recent flurry of high-level summitry between Kim and various world leaders — namely, relief from crushing international sanctions. There are fears that a recent North Korean weapon test and a series of jibes at Washington over deadlocked nuclear negotiations mean that Pyongyang may again return to the nuclear and long-range missile tests that had many in Asia fearing war in 2017.
Kim had two summits with U.S. President Donald Trump, but the latest in Vietnam in February collapsed because North Korea wanted more sanctions relief than Washington was willing to give for the amount of nuclear disarmament offered by Pyongyang.
North Korea announced last week that it had tested what it called a new type of “tactical guided weapon.” While unlikely to be a prohibited test of a medium- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle the negotiations, the announcement signaled the North’s growing disappointment with the diplomatic breakdown.