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Examining Russia’s Role In US, North Korea Summit



Ahead of the much vaunted summit between United States President, Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un billed to take place on June 12 in Singapore, the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov has visited the North Korean strongman in Pyongyang.

It is believed that the purpose of the recent visit was to discuss bilateral relations between Russia and North Korea, denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and also for Russia to ensure that both parties are satisfied after the summit. It is also believed that the European giant seeks to ensure that its concerns and interests are not joepardised during the summit.

At a meeting in Pyongyang, Kim told Lavrov that he was committed to the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula
Kim hoped US-North Korean relations and denuclearisation of the peninsula “will be solved on a stage-by-stage basis” and “he hoped that the solution of the issues will progress through effective and constructive dialogue and negotiation.”

Also, Kim has complained of “US hegemonism” to Russia’s visiting foreign minister as one of his top lieutenants visited New York trying to ensure that a summit with President Donald Trump goes ahead.

The North Korean ruler told Lavrov that he hoped to boost cooperation with Russia, which has remained largely on the sidelines in recent months as Kim has reached out diplomatically to the United States, South Korea and China.
“As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Kim told Lavrov.

Lavrov’s visit came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official held talks on planning a historic summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore.

Lavrov on Thursday passed on good wishes to Kim from Russian President Vladimir Putin and invited him to visit Moscow, television footage showed.

“Come to Russia. We would be very happy to see you,” Lavrov, seated across a table from Kim, said.
He expressed Moscow’s support for the declaration between North and South Korea last month in which they agreed to work for the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

Lavrov also held talks with his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong-ho, in what was his first trip to North Korea since 2009, Russian news agencies said.

He said Moscow hoped all sides would take a delicate approach to possible forthcoming talks on a nuclear settlement on the peninsula and not try to rush the process.

“This will allow for the realisation not only of the denuclearisation of the whole Korean peninsula but also to provide sustainable peace and stability across northeast Asia,” Lavrov was quoted as saying by his ministry.

Recall that Kim has previously made harsher comments and even threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. But his recent comments came at a sensitive moment.

After meeting with the North Korean senior envoy Kim Yong Chol, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo said “real progress” has been made in the last three days toward setting the conditions needed for Trump and Kim Jong-un to have a successful summit in Singapore.

Kim Yong-chol, the highest-level North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years, plans to travel to Washington to convey a personal letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump.

Since January, Kim has significantly toned down his rhetoric against Washington and Seoul following a year of heightened nuclear tensions that saw increased fears of war on the Korean Peninsula. But a return to blunt language by Kim led Trump last week to cancel the planned summit, though he quickly announced it might still go ahead.

Pundits believe that with the increasing influence of Russia in middle-east and Asia, Lavrov’s visit suggests Russia wants to become involved and make sure North Korea keeps it informed while taking into account Moscow’s concerns.

Meanwhile, Trump has confirmed that his summit with Kim would go ahead as originally planned on June 12 in Singapore, after unprecedented Oval Office talks with a top envoy from Pyongyang.

While admitting that dealing with North Korea was “going to be a process,” Trump said he believed that process would ultimately be “successful.”

Trump emerged after a more than hour-long Oval Office meeting with Kim Yong Chol — a general facing US sanctions who is Kim’s right-hand.

Trump said the letter from Kim, hand-delivered by Kim Yong Chol, was “very nice” and “very interesting” — but then said he had not opened it yet.

Nevertheless, the US president had warm words for Pyongyang, saying the long discussions had touched on North Korea’s denuclearization and economic development.

Trump indicated that the campaign of “maximum pressure” was at least on hold, vowing no new sanctions while talks are ongoing.

“The relationships are building and that’s very positive,” he said.

In a move that is sure to worry US allies in Japan and South Korea, Trump also said that he and his guest had discussed US troop numbers on the Korean peninsula.

“We talked about almost everything. We talked about a lot. And we talked about sanctions,” he said.