On Thursday, April 25, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin for the first time ever. Putin invited Kim to Vladivostok for diplomatic talks, particularly focused on trade, economic relations, and educational exchanges.
Putin also told Kim, “We certainly welcome your efforts to promote inter-Korean dialogue and normalisation in DPRK-US relations.”
Kim thanked Putin for taking time out of his busy schedule for this meeting. He congratulated Putin on his recent re-election as president, as well.
Kim said, “Mr President, just as you, I hope that our meeting will help strengthen and expand the traditional and long-standing ties of friendship between DPRK and Russia.”
He added that he hopes dialogue between Russia and North Korea facilitates peace on the Korean peninsula.
What issues did they discuss?
In general, Putin and Kim discussed strengthening bilateral relations, solutions to resolve the conflict in the Korean Peninsula, and relations with the US and United Nations (UN).
Specifically, the two leaders talked about the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. In a press conference after the talks, Putin said the most important step towards denuclearisation is restoring international law and rejecting rule of force.
“If this happens, this would be the first and critical step towards resolving challenging situations, such as the one on the Korean Peninsula,” said Putin.
He also said North Korea should disarm itself but still have the ability to guarantee security and sovereignty—these limits should be decided on the basis of international law.
Putin added that it was too early to get any guarantees of disarmament from North Korea because Russia needs to work on “strengthening trust”.
He also said that all parties with a stake in denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula need to respect each other’s national interests.
Impact on geopolitics
Kim and Putin’s first meeting comes on the heels of the collapse of talks between the US and North Korea.
In February, US President Donald Trump and Kim intended to address a full nuclearisation. Trump said he did not want North Korea to test any weapons and that the sanctions would remain in place.
Although Kim claims to have taken action to denuclearise and said he wants more amicable relations with the US, experts doubt the authenticity of his statements. Experts believe that unless North Korea allows random, on-ground inspections, the international community cannot be sure of its efforts to denuclearise.
India’s stance on North Korea is more ambiguous. They have cultural exchange programmes and technology agreements and conduct some diplomatic visits. But from a geopolitical lens, India also indirectly benefits from increased American presence on the Korean Peninsula because it checks any armed aggression from China.
At the US-North Korea meeting in Hanoi, Trump walked away because he would not agree to lift sanctions on North Korea.
Trump said, “Sometimes you have to walk and this was one of those times”.
Trump’s failure to engage with Kim has resulted in Putin and Kim’s favour.
Kim has gotten the opportunity to show the world—and his people—that he is able to form ties with some of the most powerful leaders and countries in the world. Putin has also gotten the chance to exercise more influence on the Korean Peninsula and forward Russia’s national interests in east Asia.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius