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(LEAD) N.K. leader stresses better ties with Russia ahead of summit with Putin

23:10 April 19, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS foreign media report on Kim-Putin summit in last 3 paras)

SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, vowing efforts to strengthen bilateral ties, state media said Friday, ahead of their planned summit later this month.

Kim will visit Russia in late April for his first-ever talks with Putin following the breakdown of his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in February in Hanoi.

Kim's letter is a reply to Putin's message sent on April 12 to congratulate him on his reelection to lead the top state organ at a recent parliamentary meeting.

The North's leader said it is in the interest of both countries to develop their traditional relationship, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

"I have a willingness to closely cooperate with you in a bid to develop friendly relations between the North and Russia consistently and constructively in accordance with demand in a new era and to safeguard world peace and security," Kim said in the letter sent on Thursday.

Speculation is growing that the two leaders will hold their first summit in Russia's Far East city of Vladivostok next week when Putin travels to the Far East on his way to China for an international forum.

The Kim-Putin summit, if realized, would come as the North's leader is seeking to secure diplomatic leverage following the breakdown of the Hanoi summit.

The talks between Kim and Trump fell through due to their differences on the scope of denuclearization and sanctions relief.

Kim and Putin are expected to discuss the development of bilateral ties, the issue of denuclearization and regional cooperation, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by Russia's Tass news agency.

Peskov told reporters that "Russia will be ready to do everything to promote the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula to the best of its abilities," it said.

He added that the venue and exact date for the Kim-Putin summit have yet to be released due to security concerns.
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