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Kim Jong Un to meet Vladimir Putin as North Korea pivots to Russia for help

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock
Oleksii Liskonih/iStock

(SEOUL, South Korea) — A month and a half after President Donald Trump ended his summit with Kim Jong Un without a deal, the young North Korean leader is preparing to step out again on the world stage. This time, it will be for his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The summit comes at a critical time and the relationship with Russia has become increasingly important, according to analysts, as Kim seeks to maintain his nuclear weapons stockpile while loosening the economic pressure on his country.

That means the U.S. will be watching closely, with its chief negotiator Stephen Biegun heading to Moscow this week for meetings. It’s the special representative for North Korea’s first visit to Russia since October, and he is likely to take the Kremlin’s temperature ahead of the Putin-Kim summit, as well as reinforce the importance of the United Nations Security Council sanctions implementation, according to a State Department official.

“The United States is committed to working with interested parties, including Russia, on the robust and sustained implementation of U.N. sanctions in order to move forward with denuclearization,” the official told ABC News.

The Kremlin confirmed Monday that a meeting was being planned, but declined to provide any details. South Korea’s Blue House — the office of the president, which is in steady contact with North Korea — told ABC News that “preparations are underway,” but had no further comment. The meeting could come as soon as the end of next week, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.

While China has long been North Korea’s most important ally, Russia has played a key second role as an economic partner and tried to assert itself as a political player, often by playing a foil to U.S. interests.

The summit would be Kim’s first trip to Russia. It’s unclear in what city the two will meet, but the most likely option is the far eastern port city Vladivostok, where Kim Jong Il, visited in 2011. That was the most recent meeting between the two countries, when Kim’s father met then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Ulan-Ude — near the border with Mongolia, thousands of miles east of Moscow.

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