North Korea's Kim, Medvedev to hold nuclear talks

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 24, 2011 3:58 PM
North Korea's Kim, Medvedev to hold nuclear talks

MOSCOW (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program and economic cooperation, the Kremlin said on Wednesday.

It did not set a date or place for the meeting but it was widely expected to take place later on Wednesday in Siberia after Kim's armored train pulled in to Ulan-Ude, a provincial capital near Lake Baikal, on Tuesday.

The secretive North Korean leader has said little about his visit but is also likely to ask for economic aid for his destitute state, whose economy has been hit by floods as well as international sanctions over its nuclear weapons testing.

"Much attention will be paid to the topic of an early resumption of six-party talks to resolve the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula," the Kremlin said in a statement.

"Russia has consistently advocated a peaceful, political and diplomatic solution to this problem, for the restoration of dialogue and cooperation between North and South Korea."

The Kremlin said Pyongyang had announced its readiness to return to six-party talks on its nuclear program with South Korea, Russia, China, Japan and the United States, more than two years after they broke up, and welcomed recent dialogue on the issue.

Russian and South Korean officials confirmed on Tuesday that Kim's train had reached Ulan-Ude, three days after crossing the border more than 2,000 km (1,250 miles) to the east.

Kim, who leads one of the world's most secretive nations, is on his first visit to Russia in nine years.

Media reports say Kim, 69, who travels by train because of his fear of flying, aborted a trip to Russia in June because of security concerns after news of his plans leaked out.

SIX-NATION TALKS

His first visit to North Korea's Soviet-era ally since 2002 caps a relative flurry of diplomacy for the reclusive leader, who has visited China, now his country's closest partner, three times in less than two years.

It also follows discussions between Pyongyang and Washington on the resumption of six-nation talks designed to provide North Korea with economic aid as an incentive for giving up its nuclear weapons program.

Russia and China have backed the immediate resumption of the aid-for-disarmament talks and Kim may ask Russia to exert more pressure on South Korea, the United States and Japan to restart the negotiations.

North Korea has also sought economic help from regional powers following floods that have exacerbated its economic problems.

Citing a "severe deficit" of food products, Russia said on Friday it would send 50,000 tonnes of grain to North Korea by the end of September. The North has also been seeking foreign investment to improve infrastructure.

Kim could also seek energy aid, although a long-discussed project for a natural gas pipeline linking Russia with North and South Korea is unlikely to go far without a significant thaw between the two Koreas, which are technically still at war.