This coming Thursday, April 25, on Russian Island in Vladivostok, there were talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and DPRK leader Kim Jong-un. This is the first visit of the head of the North Korean state to our country since his assumption of office at the end of 2011.
In the Far Eastern capital, Kim Jong-un arrived on April 24 on the famous armored train. On the one in which the father of the current North Korean leader Kim Jong Il traveled along the Trans-Siberian Railway in his time, he, by the way, came to Russia three times.
The meeting with Putin, according to Kommersant, should take place the next day on the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University on Russky Island (the place was chosen by Pyongyang because of security concerns). In the evening of the same day, the Russian president will fly to China for the second summit of countries participating in the project “One Belt – One Way”. And the leader of the DPRK will leave Vladivostok only on April 26: a cultural program is provided for it.
According to the sources of the publication, it has not yet been fully approved and will be updated after the guest arrives in accordance with his wishes and mood. Among the places that he can visit are the Military Historical Museum of the Pacific Fleet of Russia and the Maritime Scene of the Mariinsky Theater. It is also assumed that Kim Jong-un will visit places that his father visited during his visits to Russia.
The preparation of the Vladivostok meeting from the North Korean side is supervised by the sister of Kim Jong-un Kim Ye Jeong, who holds the post of deputy department of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party. According to the Choson Ilbo edition of the South Korean edition, she arrived in the seaside capital the day before and has already met with Secretary of State Council Kim Jang Sung who is there.
Also on Tuesday morning, two planes from Pyongyang landed at the airport in Vladivostok, on which, according to South Korean media, Kim Jong-un security officers arrived.
In total, a delegation of 230 people will accompany the chairman of the DPRK State Council on the trip.
The Kremlin officially confirmed the meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un on April 25th.
According to presidential aide Yury Ushakov, the conversation of the heads of state will be held in tete-a-tete, then negotiations will be held in an expanded format with the participation of delegations.
– Neither the signing of the documents, nor the application has yet been planned, – he noted.
As for the thematic part of the summit, then, as Ushakov explained, the heads of state will discuss various aspects of bilateral relations. In particular, an exchange of views is expected on both the political and the economic and cultural agenda. In this case, the focus will be a peaceful solution to the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula.
To comment on the upcoming meeting of the Russian and North Korean leaders, we asked the leading specialist of the Department of International Relations and Foreign Area Studies of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Science Roman Fainshmidt:
– The question is, is the denuclearization of North Korea in the interests of Russia? In my opinion, we cannot give a fully affirmative answer here. The presence of nuclear weapons for North Korea is the guarantor of the existence of this state.
Without nuclear weapons, North Korea would be fairly easy “prey” for the United States and, accordingly, South Korea, in which views on the unification of the two countries into one state are strong enough – of course, under the leadership of Seoul.
It is logical to assume that Russia is interested in strengthening its role as a security guarantor in the framework of the Asia-Pacific region. It is a fact. And the fact that Kim Jong-un considers Russia as his partner in the region is just a bonus for Russia.
– Traditionally, the region regards two forces as the most significant ones – these are the USA and China. Russia after its turn to the East in 2014 was perceived by many countries as a kind of satellite of China, which is not entirely advantageous for the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. And completely mismatched the goals and objectives of the reversal to the East.
Meeting with the North Korean leader is just an opportunity to show that Russia is an independent third force that can help resolve a number of contradictions and issues.
I do not say, again, that the goal of Russia is to solve the nuclear problem of the DPRK. On the other hand, defusing tensions in the region is, of course, in our interests. At this point, and you need to pay attention.
The fact that Russia is ready to accept the North Korean leader, and the North Korean leader is interested in Russia, it strengthens the image of Russia as a separate and independent force that goes into the Asia-Pacific region.
– There is an opinion that the Korean-American denuclearization talks have stalled because of the tough pressure on Pyongyang, Trump negotiator Mike Pompeo. The DPRK Foreign Ministry even demanded that the United States replace the state secretary in that capacity. In this connection, how do you think the meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un will be perceived in the American administration?
- I can assume that for the White House, this meeting to a certain extent was a surprise. Moreover, until the last moment about it almost nothing was known. In addition, as you remember, Kim Jong-un for eight years of being at the head of North Korea never came to Russia.
Probably, if we compare all the world leaders in the number of international visits, it is at the end of the list.
And this is a very significant moment that Kim Jong-un chose Russia to coordinate a number of foreign policy issues, accepted the invitation of our president and decided to visit our country in person.
Of course, for the United States it will be an additional challenge and a reason for nervousness. Since in the region, apart from China, there is another competing force – Russia.
Will the new Ukrainian leader be able to provide the elderly with a decent life?
– One of the topics of the negotiations will be the development of bilateral relations, including economic. At the same time, by the end of the year, following the UN sanctions, we must send all the remaining North Korean workers out of Russia. We are talking about about 40 thousand North Koreans. That is, our country will be left without the very hands that our Far East really lacks. Or maybe you should not do it?
– If the US often violates certain legal norms agreed by the UN, this does not mean that Russia should act in the same way. Russia should set an example of how to exist together in the international community, but at the same time remain a powerful sovereign power. And if the Russian Federation has agreed to adopt sanctions against the DPRK, then, accordingly, it must fulfill its obligations to the end.
On the other hand, Russia, being interested in defusing tensions within the region, can help to ensure that these sanctions are relaxed or even lifted just by advancing the relevant agenda in the UN. And as I guess, at the meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un, this question will be uttered.
Leading researcher at the Center for Korean Studies at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences Konstantin Asmolov, in turn, drew attention to the fact that there were no completely failed moments in the negotiations on denuclearization, despite the fact that the last meeting of the Korean leader and the US President in Vietnam was not a success :
- None of the parties said that the dialogue was broken. There is a situation when, after an unsuccessful summit, the parties prepare again and raise the stakes. Naturally, additional requirements are being put forward, because we have to bargain before a new round.
– What will be built on this bargaining?
– On the fact that people first raise the bar of requirements, and then they can lower them. Pay attention to the demand of the Americans when, under the word “denuclearization”, it suddenly turns out that the word “denuclearization” means depriving North Korea of all weapons of mass destruction and the missile program to boot. This is news for dictionary makers …
And, in fact, of course, the situation that exists now is beneficial for Russia.
Negotiations end in luck or not, it is not clear. But while this process is underway, there is a policy of dialogue, and neither the North, nor America carry out additional actions that aggravate the situation.
It is clear that this dialogue can be conducted by a turtle step – which, in general, is more or less profitable. Because for Russia in the first place is not so much the disarmament of North Korea as the stability on the peninsula and not turning it into a hot spot.
As for bilateral relations, we have no problems here. This is not South Korean-Japanese relations, which mainly consist of mutual accusations.
– But the trade turnover between our countries in 2018 fell by 56% and is now only 34 million dollars … There is also the problem of North Korean workers, whom we must deport.
– And also, sorry, there is such a thing as international sanctions, which Russia is obliged to implement. That is, formally, Russia should do it. Because the refusal to comply with international sanctions – it is a direct refusal – may entail additional problems for Russia. Perhaps the parties will think about how to work around this problem or solve it. Or maybe not.
– But about some specifics, we can talk?
- If the specifics will be, then, to put it mildly, it will not be in the public domain.
– Should we expect from the American administration a nervous reaction to this meeting?
- Honestly, I’m not so sure. Although American experts, of course, will shout that “Putin and Kim Jong-un secretly conspired”. But we must still remember that Russia has not very developed economic ties with the North. North Korea is not our ally, but rather a country with which we share common threats. And in terms of priorities, it is (for all its importance) below the Middle East and neighboring countries.