North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia for a summit with President Vladimir Putin, North Korean state media said on Tuesday, and a Russian news report said the leaders will meet on April 25 in Vladivostok, report agencies. The visit is part of Kim's effort to build up foreign support for his economic development plans, analysts said, after the breakdown of a second US-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February led to stalled talks with Washington on the sanctions relief sought by Pyongyang.
The North's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the visit will happen "soon," but did not elaborate on the time or location. Russia's Kommersant newspaper reported on Tuesday that the visit was scheduled for April 25 in Vladivostok. The newspaper cited two sources close to the process of preparing the visit. There was no immediate comment on the report from the Kremlin, but spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Putin and Kim are on track to meet by the end of April.
Kim Jong Un's chief aide, Kim Chang Son, was seen in Vladivostok on Sunday, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. NK News, a group that follows North Korea, showed photos on its website on Monday of preparations underway at Vladivostok's Far Eastern Federal University, likely to host part of the summit, with workers installing North Korean and Russian flags. After the failed Hanoi summit, Kim is probably looking to prove that he is still sought after by world leaders, and that he has more options, said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Far Eastern Federal University.
"Kim does not want to look too dependent on Washington, Beijing and Seoul," he said. "As for Russia, the Putin-Kim summit will reaffirm Moscow's place as a major player on the Korean Peninsula. This meeting is important for Russian international prestige."