Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly sent a letter last week to North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un inviting him to participate in the 4th Eastern Economic Forum, set to occur in Vladivostok, Russia, in September.
Russia’s RIA Novosti reported the news of the invite on Monday, according to South Korean newswire service Yonhap, but the invite came in the hands of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who visited Pyongyang and met with Kim last week.
Lavrov had reportedly told Kim that Putin was willing to meet him personally, while Kim thanked Lavrov for Russia’s “opposition” to American interests abroad.
The economic forum in Vladivostok will occur a little less than three months after the scheduled meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump, which Trump confirmed last week was on track for June 12 in Singapore. Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump described the purpose of the June meeting as “getting-to-know-you plus” and hinted at the possibility of several more meeting with Kim to achieve the full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“In the letter delivered by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the Russian leader reportedly expressed ‘best wishes’ for the success of the recent diplomacy set in motion to resolve issues related to the Korean Peninsula,” Yonhap reported. The letter also reportedly included an invite to the economic forum.
Kim Jong-un rarely ventures outside of Pyongyang. He has only made two trips abroad as head of North Korea’s repressive communist cult-regime – to Beijing and Dalian, China, both this year. Vladivostok is about 100 miles from the Russian border with North Korea, a four-hour drive due to having to navigate around the Amur and Posyet Bays. The setting will prove significantly easier to reach than Singapore, possibly enticing Kim to leave the country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed last week that Putin was interested in meeting with Kim, possibly because of the economic potential of a more capitalistic North Korea, which shares a border with Russia.
“This meeting may take place, its modalities and time will be further agreed via diplomatic channels,” Peskov said on Friday. Peskov dismissed the possibility that Putin would be willing to meet in Beijing, where Communist Party leader Xi Jinping would control the encounter.
While not yet commenting on the reported Vladivostok invite, the Kremlin confirmed that rumors about a potential Putin-Kim meeting before June 12 were unfounded. Various South Korean outlets reported on Monday that China was attempting to broker a three-way meeting with their respective heads of state. According to South Korea’s Joongang Ilbo, Putin is expected to travel to Qingdao, China, on Saturday for the annual Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit next weekend.
“Right after Foreign Minister Lavrov visited Pyongyang on May 31, North Korean media reported that the two sides agreed to a North-Russia summit. The two countries have not revealed a summit date, but depending on the situation, it could come before a summit with the United States,” an unnamed South Korean official told Joongang Ilbo.
“There are no plans for such a meeting,” Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters Monday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. Ushakov said the Russian government was not aware that Kim would be present at the Qingdao summit.
Russia has been one of the loudest voices against international sanctions on North Korea. During his visit to Pyongyang last week, Lavrov reportedly insisted that any denuclearization must be contingent upon lifting sanctions on the Kim regime.
“I highly value the fact that Putin’s administration strictly opposes U.S. dominance,” Kim told Lavrov, according to North Korean state media. “You strictly oppose, and we are always ready to conduct negotiations and a profound exchange of opinions with the Russian side on this issue.”
Putin has repeatedly called for reintegrating the Kim regime into the international community, ending its current status as a violent terror state without forcing North Korea to suffer consequences for decades of bombings, abductions, and gross human rights abuses against its people. In late May, when President Trump sent Kim a letter canceling the June 12 summit in response to egregious insults by North Korean officials against Vice President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor John Bolton, Putin lambasted the Trump regime.
“In Russia, we took this news with regret,” Putin said, claiming Kim “did everything he promised in advance,” including releasing U.S. citizen hostages and staging the alleged shutdown of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site.. “We had very much counted on it being a significant step in sorting out the situation on the Korean Peninsula and that it would be the beginning of the process of denuclearizing the whole Korean Peninsula.”
Putin has previously referred to Kim as a “shrewd and mature politician.”
Last week, President Trump told reporters that he was “totally over” his cancelation of the summit and that it would occur as scheduled. Trump welcomed U.S.-sanctioned North Korean terrorist and senior official Kim Yong-chol to the White House, who brought with him a personal letter from Kim Jong-un.
“I think we would be making a big mistake if we didn’t have it,” Trump said of the summit. “I think we’re going to have a relationship and it will start on June 12th.”