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Putin says North Korea needs ‘security guarantees’ in return for denuclearisation

Reuters / Shamil Zhumatov | Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korea leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok, Russia, on April 25, 2019.

Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong-un met for their first-ever summit on Thursday, with the Russian leader declaring that Pyongyang is ready to proceed towards denuclearisation – but needs solid security guarantees to do so.

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The summit in Russia's Far Eastern city of Vladivostok came with Kim locked in a nuclear stand-off with Washington and Putin keen to put Moscow forward as a player in another global flashpoint.

Putin emerged from the talks saying that Russia supports efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula and prevent nuclear conflicts.

But he insisted that Pyongyang needs guarantees of its security and sovereignty, and 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.

The North Korean leader's trip to Russia comes about two months after his second summit with US President Donald Trump, which failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.

Analysis: What do Putin and Kim want from Vladivostok talks?

Putin said he supported Kim's efforts to normalise relations with Washington and hoped to find out "what Russia can do" to help with the issue of denuclearisation.

The Russian leader later addressed reporters alone, saying he would fill in Washington on the results of the talks.

"There are no secrets here, no conspiracies... Chairman Kim himself asked us to inform the American side of our position," said Putin, who was due to fly on to Beijing for another summit.

Kim, who arrived a day earlier in his armoured train, was expected to stay in Vladivostok on Friday for cultural events that Russian media have reported will include a ballet and a visit to the city's aquarium.

Praising the two countries' long friendship, Kim said he hoped to "develop our traditional relations to meet the demands of a new century".

Six-way talks

With North Korea-US talks stalled, the summit in Vladivostok provided Pyongyang with an opportunity to seek support from a new quarter, Russia, and possible relief from the sanctions hurting its economy.

For the Kremlin, the summit marked a chance to show it is a global diplomatic player, despite efforts by the United States and other Western states to isolate it.

Russian officials had indicated they would come out in support of a resumption of the six-way talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme, a long-standing format that had been sidelined by Trump’s diplomatic push.

Kim trying to gain some leverage in nuclear standoff, says F24 correspondent

But with Moscow committed to upholding international sanctions until North Korea dismantles its nuclear programme, analysts said the summit was unlikely to produce any tangible help for Pyongyang, beyond a show of camaraderie.

Putin has a track record of making world leaders wait for him, but on Wednesday the Russian leader arrived at the venue around half an hour before Kim showed up, according to a Reuters reporter at the scene.

Putin and Kim, in their first ever face-to-face encounter, smiled broadly and shook hands outside the summit venue, a university campus. They then stood side by side on an escalator, chatting with help from interpreters, as they made their way to an upper floor to begin their talks.

Putin's last summit with a North Korean leader was in 2002 when his counterpart was Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong-un's father and predecessor.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP)

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