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Vladimir Putin could become the middle-man in Trump-Kim denuclearisation talks

Donald Trump was among the topics discussed by the two leaders during their first one-on-one summit.

Image: SERGEI ILNITSKY

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN says he’s willing to share details with the United States about his summit with Kim Jong Un, potentially raising Russia’s influence in the stalemated issue of North Korean denuclearisation.

The two leaders’ first one-on-one did not indicate major changes in North Korea’s position: Putin said Kim is willing to give up nuclear weapons, but only if he gets ironclad security guarantees.

However, Putin said Kim urged him to explain the nuances of North Korea’s position to President Donald Trump. Such an interlocutor role could be meaningful in light of Trump’s apparent admiration of the Russian leader.

Trump has said he “fell in love” with Kim, possibly indicating a proclivity to being swayed toward accommodation with the North Korean leader, although that declaration came before the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in February that collapsed over mismatched demands in sanctions relief and disarmament.

At yesterday’s summit in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, about 75 miles from the North Korean border, Kim criticized Washington for taking “unilateral attitude in bad faith” at the Trump-Kim meeting that has caused a diplomatic standstill, North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency said.

Kim told Putin that the situation on the Korean Peninsula has reached a “critical point” where it could return to tensions and that peace and security will “entirely depend on the US future attitude,” the agency said.

Putin Kim Summit Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un pass honor guards officers during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia. Source: YURI KADOBNOV

The KCNA said Kim and Putin held in-depth discussions to promote “strategic communication and tactical collaboration” over the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and also talked about boosting high-level visits and other exchanges between the countries.

The agency said Putin credited Kim’s diplomatic initiatives for stabilizing the situation surrounding the peninsula and accepted Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea at a “convenient time.” It did not report on any specific agreements regarding North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and US-led sanctions against the North.

After the summit, Putin stressed that Moscow and Washington both want North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.

Putin Kim Summit Source: Alexei Nikolsky

But, he said, the security guarantees Kim demands in exchange should be underwritten by multiple countries, hinting at an arrangement like the six-nation talks Russia participated in until their collapse in 2009.

Putin later headed for a two-day trip to Beijing, where he said he will inform the Chinese leadership about the summit.

“And we will just as openly discuss this issue with the US leadership,” Putin said.

There are no secrets. Russia’s position always has been transparent. There are no plots of any kind.

Putin’s remarks reflect Kim’s growing frustration with Washington’s efforts to maintain “maximum pressure” until the North commits to denuclearisation.

Putin Kim Summit Source: Alexander Zemlianichenko

But his characterisation of Kim’s comments also suggests there have been no major changes in North Korea’s basic position.

North Korea has all along contended that it needs its nuclear arsenal to defend itself against what it sees as US hostility and wants concrete reassurances of its safety – including the removal of the American nuclear threat as an integral part of the denuclearisation of the entire Korean Peninsula.

Trump has made clear that he is eager to work out a deal with North Korea and has already indicated that he thinks he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

Russia’s involvement in the issue could bolster his confidence, though some analysts think Washington and Moscow are too far estranged.

Kim is expected to return to Pyongyang today.

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Associated Press

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