Key aide to Kim Jong Un 'removed from post'

Ann Santiago
April 25, 2019

Russian news agency Tass quoted a local official as saying Kim was given flowers, bread and salt at the Hasan train station after crossing the border.

While Putin has little money to share and is unlikely to make any moves that could violate sanctions or create another dispute with the U.S., Kim may have to settle for Russian pledges of diplomatic and economic support.

"This is primarily due to the fact that Russian Federation is forced to follow global sanctions that were imposed on the DPRK", said Ushakov, using the acronym for North Korea's official name.

Multilateral sanctions have been in place against the isolated nation for decades due largely to its attempts to develop nuclear weapons and long range missiles.

Soon after his first election as Russian president, Putin sought to normalize relations and met Kim Jong Il - the current leader's father and predecessor - 3 times, the first of those meetings in Pyongyang in 2000, when he became the first Russian leader to visit the North. The island has a university with a conference hall and is seen as a likely summit venue.

News of the alleged killings comes as North Korean media reported Kim's sister, Kim Yo-jong, had been "demoted" from at least one of her titles within the party in the wake of the failed nuclear summit, according to NK News.

Kim Yong Chol has been Kim Jong Un's top envoy.

Separately in Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu hosted his North Korean counterpart to discuss "international security", the Russian military said on Wednesday.

"During the meeting with your president, [I] will exchange opinions on many issues and I believe [the summit] will be an opportunity for very useful dialogue in stably managing and jointly adjusting the situation in this region", he told a Russian news broadcaster.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived by train in the city of Vladivostok on Wednesday for his first trip to Russian Federation aimed at galvanising support from President Vladimir Putin while nuclear talks with Washington are in a limbo.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo escorts Vice Chairman of the North Korean Workers' Party Committee Kim Yong-chol, as they meet at a hotel in Washington, US on Jan 18, 2019.

North Korea wanted more sanctions relief than the United States was willing to give for the amount of nuclear disarmament.

Some experts say Kim could try to bolster his country's ties with Russian Federation and China. Still, the summit could allow Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

The talks follow repeated invitations from Mr Putin since the North Korean leader embarked on a series of diplomatic overtures a year ago.

Like Beijing, Moscow does not want to create regime change in Pyongyang, which could potentially wreak havoc in the area, inviting more US influence.

The North Korean leader's distinct armored green train pulled up to the station in Vladivostok and came to a stop as North Korean officials scrambled to the door to put down ramps. The nuclear row, and how to resolve it, would be the main item on the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters.

Kaesong, located just north of the inter-Korean border, used South Korean capital and North Korean labor to produce goods, before being closed after a North Korean nuclear test in 2016.

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