Medvedev hosts N. Korean leader for rare talks
North Korea's leader Kim Jong-Il on Wednesday met President Dmitry Medvedev in Siberia for secrecy-shrouded talks to win Russian energy and food aid for his reclusive state.
The summit between Kim, 69, and Medvedev, 45, is the highlight of the North Korean leader’s four-day-long train ride through Russia’s Far East and Siberia, his third visit to the giant neighbour in the last decade.
The meeting opened at the Sosnovy Bor (Pine Forest) garrison outside the city of Ulan Ude some 5,550 kilometres (3,450 miles) east of Moscow where Medvedev had flown earlier in the day.
“Thank you that you flew here,” Kim told Medvedev as the talks got underway.
Medvedev replied: “This is all our country and when we are talking about neighbours, our partners, distance is not a question.”
The two men sat at a small table decorated with white flowers, with Kim wearing his signature grey uniform and regular glasses.
Kim had arrived in Ulan-Ude aboard his armoured train a day earlier on a week-long Trans-Siberian journey which started at the weekend when he crossed the border into Russia’s Far East.
His journey has seen him enjoy varied excursions including taking a dip in Siberian waters, touring a plant making assault aircraft, taking a trip on the famed Lake Baikal, eating local fish and visiting a hydro-power station.
“I hope that you have been able to see what you wanted to,” said Medvedev. Kim replied: “Thank you for the great attention from your side Mr President, we are having a very fun journey.”
In a nod to Kim’s concerns about personal safety, the Kremlin imposed a virtual blanket ban on information about the plans and itinerary of the North Korean leader.
Kim and Medvedev are expected to discuss energy and infrastructure projects involving both Koreas.
They include a long-stalled plan for a trans-Korean railroad, the construction of an electricity transmission line between the two countries and, most importantly, a pipeline carrying Russian gas to South Korea via the North.
Kim is also likely seek more economic and food aid from Moscow amid fears of a hunger crisis. Moscow said on the eve of Kim’s arrival that it was sending up to 50,000 tonnes of wheat to North Korea.
The Kremlin said in a statement ahead of the talks that “great attention” would be given in the meeting to efforts to resume talks on defusing the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.
Pyongyang stormed out of the six-party negotiations — grouping the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia — in April 2009 and conducted its second nuclear test a month later, but has expressed a desire to return to the forum.
South Korea’s chief nuclear envoy will travel to China this week, Seoul’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, as part of diplomatic efforts to resume the long-stalled disarmament talks.
“On the agenda of the two heads of state are questions of strengthening political dialogue, cooperation between interested ministries and the widening of regional and humanitarian contacts,” the Kremlin added.
Kim last travelled to Russia in 2002 when he met then president Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok. In May, Kim visited China, a third visit in just over a year to his country’s sole major ally and economic lifeline.
The Kremlin says any opportunity must be seized to engage the Stalinist state in dialogue and trilateral projects could help promote stability on the divided Korean peninsula.