Moscow eyes role in N Korea with Kim-Putin summit


Moscow: Russia’s Vladimir Putin set for his first talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in April and Moscow is eyeing a major role in yet another global flashpoint.

The situation on the Korean peninsula seemed to be stabilising after a historic meeting between Kim and US President Donald Trump last year, at which they both backed de-nuclearisation.

But the second round of talks ended in failure and Pyongyang this week said it was testing weapons again.

Now Putin, who has long expressed his readiness to meet with Kim, is gearing up to play a bigger role in nuclear negotiations with Moscow’s Cold War-era ally, with which it shares a short border.

Russia’s main interest in the summit is to remind other players “that it exists and that it has economic and political potential” in the region, Andrei Lankov of Seoul’s Kookmin University told AFP.

“Russia needs some sort of control over the situation on the Korean peninsula. Recent events have pushed out almost everyone apart from North Korea and the US, and of course nobody likes that,” he said.

Russia has been inviting Kim for talks since last year but he was unwilling to spend time and resources on the trip because Moscow was not a major player, Lankov said.

But now Kim is looking for all the allies he can get “because (the second round of US talks) was a failure, and he was not able to achieve the things he was counting on.”

Moscow has relatively good relations with the reclusive regime, though these have deteriorated from Soviet-era highs.

Putin has expressed tacit support for Pyongyang, saying last year that “it seems counterproductive if we demand everything from the North Korean side and in response they are given nothing”.

The US has accused Moscow, which provides some food aid to North Korea, of helping Pyongyang evade some international sanctions — a charge Moscow denies.