Russia’s Foreign Minister has called for sanctions on North Korea to be lifted and invited Kim Jong-un for a meeting in Moscow as he met with the dictator in Pyongyang on Thursday.
Sergei Lavrov was welcomed with open arms by Kim as he flew into the hermit kingdom in an apparent bid to curry favour ahead of the crucial summit between North Korea and the US in Singapore next month.
‘It is absolutely obvious that, as we start discussions on how to resolve the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, it is understood that the solution cannot be comprehensive without the lifting of sanctions,’ Lavrov said in a press conference.
The meeting was the first time Kim Jong-un had ever received a Russian official in Pyongyang
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (front) steps off a plane at Pyongyang on Thursday
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov bows after laying flowers at the statues of the late leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il
He also urged the state to hold off on relinquishing their nuclear weapons until tangible action had been taken to lift the economic stranglehold.
‘This cannot be achieved at one go’, he added. ‘There can be no immediate denuclearisation, this should be done step by step and all sides should go half-way during every single phase of this process’.
The meeting was the first ever between the North Korean leader and a Russian official – and Lavrov used the opportunity to invite Kim for a return fixture in Moscow.
‘Come to Russia, we’ll be very happy to see you,’ Lavrov told Kim in remarks released by the Russian foreign ministry.
Last month North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho held rare talks with Lavrov in Moscow as Pyongyang moves to improve strained ties with global powers.
Foreign Minister Lavrov walking with several members of the North Korean delegation at the flower-laying ceremony
Diplomatic teams from North Korea and Russia in discussions on Thursday at the Mansudae Assembly Hall in Pyongyang
Lavrov passed greetings from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Kim, saying he wished him success in the ‘major undertakings that have been initiated on the Korean peninsula’, the ministry said in a statement.
The meeting between Lavrov and Kim lays bare Russia’s desire to involve itself in diplomatic relations between North Korea and the US ahead of next month’s crucial summit.
President Trump and Kim will fly into Singapore for a meeting on June 12 to discuss the potential for denationalization and greater cooperation between North and South Korea.
The on-off summit looks to be going ahead as planned despite a recent declaration by President Trump that it would not be going ahead.
Kim’s right hand man General Kim Yong Chol flew into New York on Wednesday to discuss preparations for the assembly.
Kim Jong-un poses for photos standing next to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his team of diplomats
Sergei Lavrov shakes hands with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho on Thursday morning
Lavrov addresses the assembled horde of international media in a press conference at the Mansudae Assembly Hall