North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his first summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Vladivostok on Thursday. Kim offered Putin to “jointly manage” the situation on the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean leader used the same expression during a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Cornered since the no-deal summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi, Kim has approached China and Russia to ask them to back him in denuclearization negotiations with the U.S.
Putin, who has thought that his country has less influence on the peninsula than China, also expressed his will to get actively involved in the peninsula issues, vowing to contribute to seeking solutions. The Russian president will visit Beijing on Friday to take part in the One Belt One Road international forum. While North Korea is strengthening its bond with China and Russia, South Korea is in a worrisome situation where it is out of synch with the U.S. over North Korea while having deepening diplomatic rifts with Japan.
It has not been known yet what demand Kim made at the summit with Putin regarding some 10,000 North Korean laborers working in Russia. “We have a lot of work to do to develop bilateral relations in trade and exchanges of human resources,” Putin said, causing concerns in the international community over a possibility that Moscow opens a back door for North Korea to help it bypass international sanctions.
Kim said his visit to Russia will not be his last, while Putin accepted Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang. The North Korean leader is trying to woo both the Chinese and Russian president to Pyongyang. While the three countries are strengthening their alliance for escaping international sanctions, Seoul’s Moon Jae-in administration is at odd with Washington over how to denuclearize Pyongyang and having a growing diplomatic conflict with Tokyo. Seoul is preparing an event alone to mark the first anniversary of the Moon-Kim summit on April summit.
After declaring at the Supreme People’s Assembly session on April 11 that North Korea will pursue self-reliance against international sanctions, the North Korean leader has made it clear that he will take a long-term posture in negotiations with the U.S. while seeking China and Russia’s backing. The Moon administration should realign its coordination with the U.S. and Japan over North Korea’s denuclearization, rather than hurriedly seeking inter-Korean economic cooperation with the North as if begging for dialogue.