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Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un pledge stronger ties in Vladivostok

Moscow:     North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and Russia’s Vladimir Putin have pledged to boost ties at their first ever summit.
The pair shook hands on Russky Island near the port city of Vladivostok, in Russia’s far east.
The Kremlin said the leaders would discuss denuclearisation, but Kim is also expected to be seeking support after talks with the US collapsed.
The talks in Hanoi with US President Donald Trump failed to reach a deal on North Korea’s nuclear programme.
At their opening remarks the Russian and North Korean leaders referred to their two countries’ long history of ties and Putin said he wanted to help calm Korean tensions.
“I am confident your visit today to Russia will help us to better understand how we can resolve the situation on the Korean peninsula and what Russia can do to support the positive processes currently taking place,” Putin said.
Kim said he hoped for “a very useful meeting in developing the relationship between the two countries, who have a long friendship and history, into a more stable and sound one”.
The North Korean leader greeted Russian officials warmly when he arrived on Wednesday.
Kim was entertained by a brass band before he got inside a car flanked by bodyguards, who – in now familiar scenes – jogged alongside the vehicle as it departed.
According to the Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin believes the six-party talks on North Korea, which are currently stalled, are the only efficient way of addressing the issue of nuclear weapons on the peninsula.
Those talks, which began in 2003, involve the two Koreas as well as China, Japan, Russia and the US.
There are no other efficient international mechanisms at the moment,” Mr Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
“But, on the other hand, efforts are being made by other countries. Here all efforts merit support as long as they really aim at de-nuclearisation and resolving the problem of the two Koreas.”
The country has blamed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the collapse of the Hanoi summit.
Earlier this month North Korea demanded that Pompeo be removed from nuclear talks, accusing him of “talking nonsense” and asking for someone “more careful” to replace him.
The summit is also an opportunity for Pyongyang to show that its economic future does not depend solely on the US, our correspondent adds.
Kim may also try to put pressure on Moscow to ease sanctions.
Analysts believe this summit is a chance for Russia to show that it is an important player on the Korean peninsula.
President Putin has been eager to meet the North Korean leader for quite some time. Yet amid the two Trump-Kim summits, the Kremlin has been somewhat sidelined.
Russia, like the US and China, is uncomfortable with North Korea being a nuclear state.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union (of which Russia is the main successor state) maintained close military and trade links with its communist ally, North Korea, for ideological and strategic reasons.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, trade links with post-communist Russia shrank and North Korea leaned towards China as its main ally.
Under President Putin, Russia recovered economically and in 2014 he wrote off most of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt in a major goodwill gesture.
While it is arguable how much leverage Russia has with the North today, the communist state still regards it as one of the least hostile foreign powers.

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