Kim Jong-un travelling by train to meet Vladimir Putin for first time in Russia
It will be the first meeting between Russia and North Korea since 2011.
North Korea Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is finally meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin.
This was after the Russian leader expressed interest in meeting the North Korean leader in May 2018.
According to BBC, Kim is currently en-route to Russia on his private train.
The meeting is scheduled to take place on Russky island, near the far-eastern Russian city of Vladivostok.
The Kremlin has confirmed the meeting will take place on April 25, Reuters reported.
Here’s what both sides could likely be seeking from the meeting.
North Korea: An additional major power as ally
Kim could likely be seeking another major power to back North Korea up and give it a stronger hand in negotiations with the United States and China.
The aim would be to show the U.S. that North Korea is not isolated, especially since the Hanoi summit in February 2019 between the two countries abruptly ended without concrete agreements.
As a result, the international sanctions squeezing the North Korean economy were not eased.
North Korea’s visit to Russia could also be aimed at balancing China’s influence, given China’s status as North Korea’s largest trading partner and critical fuel supplier, The Straits Times reported.
Jeong Young-tae, an analyst at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said the visit to Russia is in line with North Korean ideology of not relying on a single ally.
North Korea’s meeting with Russia comes amidst its demand that the U.S. drop Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from talks, and its testing of a new “tactical guided weapon“.
Such moves appear to be part of North Korea’s diplomatic strategy to gain concessions by navigating the conflict between world powers, BBC noted.
Russia: Demonstrating its presence in the Far East
As for Russia, it is likely that the outcome it is looking for is a demonstration of its presence in the region, BBC reported.
While Russia is uncomfortable with North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, it also views the American goal of denuclearisation as unrealistic.
As such, the Kremlin desires talks with North Korea, both to stabilise the situation and to demonstrate its presence and commitment in the region.
Financial aid for North Korea unlikely from Russia
One outcome that has been classified as unlikely is the rendering of financial aid to North Korea.
While money is what North Korea currently needs the most due to sanctions, it is unlikely to be forthcoming from Russia.
This is because Russia itself is facing sanctions over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula in 2014.
Moreover, both Russia and North Korea have exports that are of little use to each other’s markets, which means Russia has little to gain by openly violating the sanctions on North Korea.
What is Russia’s history with North Korea?
Historically, the two countries have been close.
It was the Soviet Union which installed Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung as North Korea’s leader at the country’s founding, ST highlighted.
That’s not to say relations were always warm.
Kim’s grandfather often exploited the Communist rivalry between China and the Soviet Union to gain concessions from both parties.
Still, North Korea suffered from the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991.
But relations between both countries were normalised once more when Putin sought to meet the late Kim Jong-il — Kim’s father and predecessor — three times.
The previous meeting between both countries took place in 2011.
Kim’s father visited former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in 2011, to discuss North Korea’s nuclear programme and economic cooperation, BBC reported.
Here’s what happened between Kim and Trump in Vietnam:
Top image via and Vladimir Putin Facebook.