North Korea's Kim, Medvedev hold nuclear talks

Kim may want Russia to press South Korea, US and Japan to swiftly restart six-nation talks aimed to provide the North with economic aid.

By REUTERS
August 24, 2011 10:23
2 minute read.
N. Korea's Kim Jong-il meets Russia's Medvedev

Kim Medvedev 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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SOSNOVY BOR, Russia - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met at a Siberian military base on Wednesday for talks the Kremlin said would focus on Pyongyang's nuclear program and economic ties.

Four days after crossing the border on an armored train for his first visit to Russia in nine years, Kim sat down with Medvedev at a paratroops garrison near Lake Baikal in the Buryatia region, some 4,420 km (2,750 miles) east of Moscow.

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The time and day of the meeting were kept under wraps until the last minute by the Kremlin and the secretive Kim, who had arrived in the provincial capital Ulan-Ude on Tuesday after traveling from the Pacific Coast.

"Thanks to special attention and care on your part, Mr. President, we are having a happy trip," said Kim, 69, who was driven to the base in a black Mercedes. He spent the previous day boating on Lake Baikal, the North's state news agency said.

The autocratic leader has sought help from regional powers in recent months for his impoverished nation, struggling with floods and economic sanctions, and has left isolated North Korea to visit China three times in less than two years.

Kim may want Russia to press South Korea, the United States and Japan to swiftly restart six-nation talks aimed to provide the North with economic aid as an incentive for giving up a nuclear weapons program that worries the world. .

The talks with South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States collapsed in 2008 after Pyongyang walked out.

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"Much attention will be paid to the topic of an early resumption of six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," the Kremlin said in a statement.

"Russia has consistently advocated a peaceful, political and diplomatic solution to this problem, for the restoration of dialogue and cooperation between North and South Korea."

The Kremlin noted that Pyongyang had announced its readiness to return to the talks and welcomed recent dialogue on the issue.

Seoul, Washington and Tokyo say they are willing to resume the aid-for-disarmament talks where they left off, but insist Pyongyang must show it is serious about denuclearizing.

North Korea has also sought economic help from regional powers following floods that have exacerbated its economic problems.

Citing a "severe deficit" of food products, Russia said on Friday it would send 50,000 tons of grain to North Korea by the end of September. The North has also been seeking foreign investment to improve infrastructure.

Kim could also seek energy aid, although a long-discussed project for a natural gas pipeline linking Russia with North and South Korea is unlikely to go far without a significant thaw between the two Koreas, which are technically still at war.

Media reports say Kim, who travels by train because of his fear of flying, aborted a trip to Russia in June because of security concerns after news of his plans leaked out.

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