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Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, On Rare Visit To North Korea, Invites Kim To Russia


North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (left) and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet in Pyongyang on May 31.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the country's foreign minister ahead of a planned summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim next month.

Lavrov's May 31 visit -- his first to North Korea since 2009 -- was seen as an attempt by Moscow to ensure its voice is heard in Pyongyang's diplomatic overtures with the United States and South Korea.

Lavrov met Kim in Pyongyang, Russia’s Foreign Ministry tweeted, and extended an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin for the North Korean leader to visit Russia.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it was too early to know whether there would be a Putin-Kim meeting in Russia.

Lavrov began his visit to North Korea by meeting with Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

“We welcome contacts between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States," Lavrov said on May 31 after meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

The Russian minister called on "all the parties involved to fully realize their responsibility for preventing the failure of such an important but fragile process."

Moscow is interested in implementing joint economic projects with Pyongyang and Seoul, including railway construction, Lavrov also said.

Russia and North Korea share a small border that is only a few kilometers from the Far East city of Vladivostok and they enjoy relatively cordial relations.

Lavrov's trip to Pyongyang comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organize a historic summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Kim's right-hand man, General Kim Yong Chol, in New York late on May 30 to discuss the matter.

Kim Yong Chol, the most senior North Korean to visit the United States in nearly 20 years, dined with Pompeo and the two were due to meet again on May 31.

"Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight. Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu," Pompeo tweeted.

Trump previously cancelled the summit scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, but both sides have since made fresh efforts to hold it as planned.

Washington is seeking the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for certain economic and security benefits for Pyongyang.

With reporting by AP, AFP, and TASS
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