MOSCOW (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will travel to Russia this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Thursday, announcing the first Russia-North Korea summit since Kim came to power in 2011.
The announcement coincided with a moment of discord in efforts by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration to reach a deal with Kim to end nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea said on Thursday it no longer wanted to deal with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and called for him to be replaced in talks by somebody more mature. That demand came hours after Pyongyang announced its first weapons test since a summit in Vietnam between Trump and Kim broke down in February with no agreement.
The pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper cited a diplomatic source on Wednesday as saying the Putin-Kim meeting would likely take place next week in Russia's Far Eastern city of Vladivostok before Putin flies on to an April 26-27 summit in China.
It added however that a sudden change of plan by the leader of the secretive North Korean state could not be ruled out.
The Kremlin gave no further details in a statement on its website, but Moscow has been saying for months that it was working on such a meeting.
Kim came to power in 2011 following the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, who had visited Russia for a summit with then President Dmitry Medvedev earlier that year.
It was not clear how Kim might travel to Russia, which shares a border with North Korea.
A North Korean official, Kim Chang Son, traveled to Vladivostok this week and was seen on Wednesday inspecting the Pacific port city's train station and making security checks, Russia's RIA news agency reported on Thursday.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun met Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov in Moscow on Thursday and discussed ways to advance a “final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea”, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow said on Thursday.
The embassy said in a statement that the talks had been “constructive”.
The Trump-Kim meeting in Vietnam, the second summit between the two leaders, broke down over conflicting demands by North Korea for sanctions relief and by the United States for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. The following month Washington imposed a new round of sanctions on Pyongyang.
Trump administration officials have floated the possibility of a third summit.
(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Christian Lowe and Frances Kerry)