Russian President Vladimir Putin said after his first face-to-face talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Pyongyang needs international "security guarantees" before it ends its nuclear program.
Putin added that such guarantees would need to be offered within a multinational framework, following the end of a daylong summit with Kim on an island off Russia's Far Eastern port city of Vladivostok on April 25.
Kim said the summit was a "very meaningful one-on-one exchange."
The meeting came two months after talks collapsed between the United States and North Korea over the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Those talks broke down over North Korea's demand for full economic sanctions relief in return for some denuclearization commitments, a deal Washington was not willing to make.
"They [North Korea] only need guarantees about their security," Putin told reporters after the summit ended.
Putin said an agreement with Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons would not be possible "without international guarantees" and that it was unlikely that "any agreements between two countries will be enough."
Such guarantees would have to be international, legally binding, and secure North Korea's sovereignty, said Putin.
The president also took a veiled swipe at Washington for trying to strong-arm North Korea.
"We need to... return to a state where international law, not the law of the strongest, determines the situation in the world," Putin said.
Kim said that peace and security in the region depended entirely on future U.S. behavior, North Korean state media reported.
"The situation on the Korean Peninsula and the region is now at a standstill and has reached a critical point where it may return to its original state as the U.S. took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second [North Korea-U.S.] summit talks," KCNA reported Kim saying.
Earlier on April 25, Kim said he had "very meaningful exchange of views on issues of mutual interest" with Putin, adding that they had "discussed ways of peaceful settlement."
Putin said he and Kim had a "substantial discussion" and exchanged views on how to defuse the standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.
The two leaders first spoke one-on-one before they sat down for broader negotiations that involved top officials from both sides.
The two leaders smiled and shook hands outside the Far Eastern State University on Russky Island, across a bridge from Vladivostok, before they sat down in a conference room to exchange greetings in front of cameras.
Putin said he hoped Kim's visit would "help us better understand by what means we can reach a settlement on the Korean Peninsula, what we can do together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes now under way."
"Without question, we welcome your efforts to develop dialogue between the Koreas and to normalize North Korean-U.S. relations," Putin said.
Kim, who had arrived in the city a day earlier by train, told Putin the meeting would help strengthen and develop ties between Russia and North Korea.
“As world attention is focused on the Korean Peninsula, there will be very meaningful dialogue for us to jointly assess the Korean Peninsula policies and share, coordinate, and study our views,” Kim said.
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 Dmitry Medvedev.
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.
The meeting came as U.S. President Donald Trump's administration pushes for a deal to end nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The meeting came after Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump failed to reach an agreement on a denuclearization deal during two summits in June 2018 and February 2019.
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.
In March, the United States imposed fresh sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons program.