South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported Tuesday that Kim Yo-jong, the head of North Korea’s Propaganda and Agitation Department and sister to dictator Kim Jong-un, arrived in Russia on Monday in anticipation of her brother’s scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
North Korean state media confirmed that Kim and Putin would “soon” meet in Russia at Putin’s behest on Tuesday. The Kremlin confirmed that such a meeting would occur before the end of the month in remarks to the press last week, but following the North Korean announcement provided more details.
Putin will hold talks with Kim in the eastern city of Vladivostok on Thursday, the Kremlin confirmed. The Russian news agency TASS added that Kim would spend Wednesday night in North Korea near the Russian border, a necessary stop given the length of the train ride from Pyongyang, estimated to take between 15 and 24 hours depending on the condition of Kim’s train.
Kim Yo-jong became a staple of Kim’s foreign policy in early 2018 after the communist dictator sent her to South Korea to represent him at the Winter Olympics that year, attracting praise and curiosity from many in the Western media. Now, according to Chosun, she is positioned to play a role in Kim’s talks with Putin.
Unlike her brother, who will take up to a day to reach his destination, Chosun reported that Kim Yo-jong “boarded a flight in Pyongyang for Vladivostok in the morning” on Monday; the flight takes less than two hours.
The younger Kim is in town to “prepare for the summit,” the unnamed source speaking to the South Korean newspaper claimed.
Kim Yo-jong’s appearance at the summit comes as something of a surprise after a report from the North Korean interest outlet NK News suggested that she had been “demoted” from at least one of her titles within the communist Korean Workers’ Party (WPK). Kim did not make a public appearance during the major WPK meetings last week in which Kim Jong-un appointed the Party’s leaders and delivered a blistering speech announcing he was abandoning direct diplomacy with American President Donald Trump in the short term. State media also did not list her among the high-ranking officials at the events last week.
Kim Yo-jong had left the limelight for some months following reports in February that she was pregnant.
The Moscow Times reported, citing the Kommersant newspaper, that, if Kim is indeed in Vladivostok, she is part of an entourage of 230 people following Kim Jong-un into Russia. Unlike Kim’s forays into South Korea, there are no reports that he is bringing North Korean artists and performers with him, or who many of the individuals not belonging to senior diplomatic arms of Pyongyang’s regime will be. The only other North Korean reported to play a role in the talks aside from the Kim siblings is Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong-un’s top aide, who reportedly spent much of the weekend scouting interesting locations for Kim to visit.
Kim Jong-un has shown a proclivity for tourism since first leaving the country as dictator in early 2018, visiting major landmarks in Singapore, Vietnam, and China while attending summits there with Trump and Communist Party of China (CPC) chief Xi Jinping. Reports placed Kim Chang Son at the famous Mariinsky ballet theater, the headquarters of Russia’s Pacific naval fleet, and an aquarium in the city.
TASS, the Russian news agency, reported Kim Jong-un is planning to stay in Vladivostok after Putin leaves for China’s Belt and Road summit.
“Kim Jong-un will remain in Vladivostok to see the sights and the places his father Kim Jong-il visited in 2002,” the agency alleged.
Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov did not offer any specifics regarding Kim’s schedule, instead confirming the date and explaining that North Korean officials made their Russian counterparts agree to not announcing the date too early.
“The date is April 25. Our president will hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok who will pay a visit to our country. That meeting will be the first contact between our president and the North Korean leader,” Ushakov said.
Perhaps offering a window into what the two leaders will discuss, the Kremlin listed among those in Putin’s entourage Minister Sergey Lavrov, Transport Minister Yevgeny Dietrich, Minister for the Development of Russia’s Far East Alexander Kozlov, Russian Railways CEO Oleg Belozerov and Deputy Energy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky.
The two heads of state will definitely discuss North Korea’s illegal nuclear weapons program, Ushakov stated. He added that the two are also eager to discuss trade in light of international sanctions on North Korea over the nuclear weapons. Russia opposes the sanctions and the United States has accused Moscow of violating them to help the North Korean economy.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) finally confirmed the summit on Tuesday but did not offer any details.
“Kim Jong Un … will soon pay a visit to the Russian Federation at the invitation of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, president of the Russian Federation,” KCNA announced.