North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he hopes his first face-to-face meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin will be “successful and useful.”
The two are meeting on April 25 in Russia's Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok after Kim arrived a day earlier and was greeted by a group of girls in Russian folk costumes who presented him with a bouquet of flowers and a traditional loaf of Russian bread and salt.
The Kremlin press service said Putin had arrived in Vladivostok during the morning and that the talks would be held at Far Eastern State University on Russky Island, across a bridge from the city.
Speaking to Russia's state-owned Rossiya-24, Kim said he hopes to speak with Putin about the "settlement of the situation on the Korean Peninsula," as well as bilateral ties with Russia.
Moscow and Pyongyang have traditionally had close ties, although those relations became frayed somewhat after Russia’s financial support was slashed following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In recent years, the two countries have grown closer, although Moscow generally does not carry the influence of Pyongyang’s main ally, China.
Russia often mixes criticism of North Korean actions with calls on the United States, South Korea, and Japan to refrain from any steps that might increase tension or provoke Pyongyang.
In 2017, it voiced opposition to increasing international sanctions on Pyongyang and denounced what it called the international community’s “military hysteria” following Pyongyang's sixth nuclear bomb test.
Kim’s father, the late Kim Jong Il, met with Putin in Moscow in 2001 and in Vladivostok in 2002 when he led the reclusive regime. The elder North Korean leader again visited Moscow in 2011 and met with then-President Dimitry Medvedev, traveling by train both times.
Kim Jong Un traveled from North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, to Vladivostok on a private armored train for the nearly 700-kilometer trip along with a delegation of government and armed forces officials.
Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov told reporters on April 23 that the two leaders would hold face-to-face talks before being joined by broader delegations, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
State-run Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on April 23 that no agreements or joint statements were expected from the meeting.
The expected meeting comes as U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is pushing for a deal to end nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
At summits in June 2018 and February 2019, Trump and Kim failed to reach an agreement on a denuclearization deal.
The Trump administration has suggested the possibility of a third summit, but North Korea on April 18 demanded that Washington remove Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from any future negotiations.
U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was in Moscow last week to meet Russian officials to discuss ways to advance a "final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea."
In March, the United States imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.