Moscow sending top diplomat to Pyongyang

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) will meet his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho to discuss bilateral relations and pressing international issues.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (left) will meet his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho to discuss bilateral relations and pressing international issues. PHOTOS: REUTERS

SEOUL • Russia is sending its top diplomat to Pyongyang today as US and North Korean officials ramp up preparations for the widely anticipated summit between leaders Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho today to discuss bilateral relations and pressing international issues.

Speaking at a Moscow forumyesterday, Mr Lavrov said multilateral talks on the North Korean issue will help settle the crisis in the region.

He said the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula should be accompanied "by mechanisms to ensure peace and stability throughout North-east Asia", reported Russia's state-owned media outlet RT.

Russia was a member of the now-defunct six-party talks that also included the United States, North Korea, South Korea, China and Japan.

Diplomatic activity has gathered pace as both North Korea and the US scramble to keep the historic summit on track for June 12 in Singapore.

North Korean general Kim Yong Chol, one of Mr Kim Jong Un's most trusted aides, was expected to arrive in New York yesterday to put the final touches to the summit.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was travelling to New York yesterday to meet the general. The two met during Mr Pompeo's recent two visits to Pyongyang.

One expert told NK News that the general's visit to the US would allow Mr Trump to hear first-hand from a senior North Korean official.

"At best, this will give US officials a better understanding of North Korea's position and steer the summit in a more realistic direction," said former US State Department Korea Desk officer Mintaro Oba.

"At worst, tense meetings will cloud or poison the atmosphere, calling the summit into question once again. It is hard to tell which direction is more plausible right now."

Mr Sung Kim, the US State Department's key Korea expert, and Ms Choe Son Hui, North Korea's Vice-Foreign Minister, yesterday resumed working-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom to discuss the agenda items for the summit.

North Korea watchers told The Korea Herald that both countries seem to have reached a broad agreement on the timeline and road map for North Korea's denuclearisation: Pyongyang is to take steps to abandon its nuclear weapons programme in "a short, compressed period of time" in return for Washington taking measures to guarantee the survival of the Kim Jong Un regime.

Separately, South Korea's presidential Blue House said yesterday it is pushing to hold a summit between South Korean President Moon Jae In and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in July, reported The Korea Herald.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 31, 2018, with the headline 'Moscow sending top diplomat to Pyongyang'. Print Edition | Subscribe