North Korea's Kim to Meet Putin as Tensions Rise with US

Apr 19, 2019, 01:04
North Korea's Kim to Meet Putin as Tensions Rise with US

Senior North Korean foreign ministry official Kwon Jong Gun also used his statement to make cryptic statements about the relationship between the USA and North Korea, via the country's official KCNA news agency.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will travel to Russia this month for talks with President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said on Thursday, announcing the first Russia-North Korea summit since Kim came to power in 2011.

Kim was quoted as saying that "the development of the weapon system serves as an event of very weighty significance in increasing the combat power of the People's Army".

Kim's Hanoi summit with Trump, the second between the two men, ended abruptly, with North Korea later protesting that the U.S. was being unreasonable.

"Tactical" implies a short-range weapon rather than the long-range ballistic missiles that have been seen as a threat to the United States.

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North Korea's announcements this week that its leader Kim Jong Un had inspected military sites and overseen the test-firing of a new weapon appear to be an attempt to get the United States back to the negotiating table, analysts said.

But their failure to reach an agreement at their second summit in Hanoi on walking back Pyongyang's nuclear programme in exchange for the relaxation of sanctions has raised questions over the future of the wider process.

Satellite images from last week showed movement at the Yongbyon nuclear site, which could be associated with the reprocessing of radioactive material into bomb fuel, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in the United States said. "If it is a cruise missile, then it has no relevance with the current sanctions".

Kim said recently that his personal relationship with Trump was still good, but that he had no interest in a third summit if it were a repeat of the February meeting in Hanoi.

South Korea had not detected anything on radar so it was unlikely to have been a missile, a military official told AFP.

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US Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun was in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday to meet Russian officials to discuss ways to advance a "final, fully verified denuclearisation of North Korea", the US said.

Even though North Korea's latest test is not likely a ballistic missile, it is still meant to send a message to Trump, said Vipin Narang, a nuclear expert and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Russian media have been abuzz in recent days with rumors about the rare meeting between the leaders.

The test amounts to "calibrated signaling to remind us where things can go if we don't moderate our negotiating position", Narang says. North Korea has suspended nuclear and long-range rocket tests, and the North and South Korean leaders have met three times.

For Kim, meeting Putin may allow him to expand his options in talks with Trump and also balance the influence of China, the main ally and sponsor of the communist North.

"Everyone has a clear interpretation of his speech which says that the USA should change its way of calculation and come up with responsive measures before the end of this year", Kwon said. "By that they want to let others know, they are not satisfied with the stalled sanctions negotiations with the U.S".

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