Not long after threatening to break off talks with the US if Washington doesn't agree to sanctions concessions by the end of the year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has arrived in Vladivostok, the largest city in Russia's far east, for his first ever in-person meeting with Vladimir Putin, much to the annoyance of the Washington security establishment.
The summit, which is scheduled for Thursday, will be hosted by the Far Eastern Federal University at its new campus on nearby Russky Island. Kim arrived in his armored train on Wednesday to much press fanfare, just hours after crossing the Korean-Russian border.
Kim stepped off the train wearing a dressy black overcoat and a fedora. Before the train stopped, Korean body guards wearing suits and white gloves departed the train, wiped off the door through which Kim would depart, then lowered a ceremonial ramp connecting the train to the platform. Before Kim could depart, the train had to back up to line up precisely with a red carpet that had been laid out for Kim.
AFP published a map of the train journey taken by Kim to Vladivostok.
The rail journey mirrored a trip once taken by Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, who met Putin in Vladivostok in 2002, not long after the Russian president first rose to power. The senior Kim once traveled more than 12,000 miles round-trip to Moscow on the same train.
Before arriving in Vladivostok, Kim stopped at the border village of Khasan, where he and his delegation were greeted by Russian diplomats and a uniformed military band.
During brief remarks in Khasan, Kim said he had been wanting to visit Russia 'for a long time'.
"I have heard a lot of good things about your country and wanted to visit it for a long time," Kim said hours earlier at the Khasan border crossing, according to the regional administration. "Seven years have passed since I took charge of the country, but I did not have a chance to visit Russia until now."
Before the summit begins on Thursday, Kim is expected to tour Vladivostok with his entourage and Russian diplomats.
Kim's famous jogging security guards are back.
Security guards jog alongside Kim Jong Un's vehicle as the North Korean leader's motorcade travels through Vladivostok ahead of his summit with Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin. https://t.co/UrsESsKJyg pic.twitter.com/NpmoS82nO1— ABC News (@ABC) April 24, 2019
Kim's visit with Putin comes just two months after a second summit with Trump collapsed in Hanoi after Trump walked away from the table. According to the Guardian, Russia is expected to offer a measure of support to Kim, who is trying to convince the US to start rolling back economic sanctions levied by the US and the UN in exchange for material steps toward denuclearization. Putin has repeatedly criticized the American approach to sanctions, once calling them a "colossal strategic error", but like China, Russia is believed to support the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, so it's unclear how much support Kim might find from Putin.
After arriving, Kim told Russian television that he wanted to discuss the "problem of the Korean peninsula" and bilateral relations with Putin, before speeding off in his limousine, flanked by his jogging guards.