North Korean leader Kim Jong Il arrived in Russia's Far East today and will meet with President Dmitry Medvedev during a visit expected to last a week, the Kremlin said. It is Kim's first trip to the country in nine years and a further sign of Pyongyang's increasing efforts to reach out for economic assistance and diplomatic support. North Korea's official media did not specify when a meeting with Medvedev would take place, but said that Kim's visit was at the invitation of the Russian president.
Russia and North Korea both announced yesterday that Moscow was providing food assistance to Pyongyang. And North Korea said earlier this week that Medvedev sent a letter calling for greater energy cooperation among Russia and the two Koreas, saying it would enhance regional security. "The key reasons for Kim's Russian visit are to discuss receiving food aid and improving economic cooperation between the two" countries, says an expert. South Korea's Yonhap News agency reported earlier that Kim may hold talks with Medvedev on Tuesday, quoting a source it did not identify, who speculated that Kim may also meet with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Russia is also "more willing to talk to North Korea as Beijing gets closer to Pyongyang," says another expert. (Read more North Korea stories.)