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(3rd LD) N.K. leader to visit Russia soon: N.K. media

09:27 April 23, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout, photo)
By Koh Byung-joon and Song Sang-ho

SEOUL/VLADIVOSTOK, April 23 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will soon visit Russia for his first summit with President Vladimir Putin, state media announced Tuesday.

Kim "will soon pay a visit to the Russian Federation at the invitation of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, president of the Russian Federation," according to the Korean Central News Agency. "They will have talks during the visit."

The KCNA, however, did not mention when and where they will meet. The Rodong Sinmun, the North's official newspaper, also reported on Kim's planned trip to Russia without providing further details.

It is unusual for the North's state media to report the leader's travel plans in advance.

(3rd LD) N.K. leader to visit Russia soon: N.K. media - 1

Kim and Putin are widely expected to meet in Russia's Far East city of Vladivostok either Wednesday or Thursday. The Kremlin earlier announced they will meet later this month but did not provide details.

Citing multiple sources, the Russian newspaper Kommersant has reported that Kim will arrive in Vladivostok on Wednesday and hold a summit with Putin at the Far Eastern Federal University the following day.

It added that Kim is expected to stay in Russia until Friday, although Putin will leave for Beijing soon after the summit with the North Korean leader so as to attend an international conference slated to occur Friday and Saturday.

The paper also said that Kim's train, which may carry a 230-strong delegation, is expected to cross the North Korea-Russia border on Wednesday morning.

If Kim travels by train, it will take at least 20 hours to reach Vladivostok. Given the journey time, Kim could depart for the Russian city later Tuesday.

The upcoming summit will be the first meeting between the leaders of the two countries in eight years, after Kim's late father, former leader Kim Jong-il, met then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011.

This will also mark the first time for Kim to travel abroad after his February summit in Hanoi with U.S. President Donald Trump ended without a deal as they failed to find common ground over the scope of Pyongyang's denuclearization and Washington's sanctions relief.

North Korea has been stepping up its diplomacy with neighboring countries, including Russia and China, since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit -- a move experts see as an effort to secure support in its nuclear negotiations with the U.S.

Some say that Kim and Putin are also likely to discuss expansion of the two countries' economic cooperation during their summit.

The trade volume between North Korea and Russia stood at US$34 million in 2018, down 56.3 percent from the $77.9 million tallied the previous year amid international sanctions imposed on the North over its nuclear and missile programs.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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