Putin, Kim to Meet for First Time. What Do They Want?

No date has been announced for upcoming summit between Russian, North Korean leaders
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 23, 2019 9:20 AM CDT
This combination file photo shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, in St. Petersburg, Russia, on April 9, 2019, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 28, 2019.   (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, Evan Vucci, File)

(Newser) – When North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin for their first one-on-one meeting, he'll have a long wish list and a strong desire to notch a win after the failure of his second summit with President Trump. But it's not entirely clear how much Putin can or will oblige, the AP notes. Kim has two urgent concerns as he heads to the summit, the date of which hasn't yet been announced. More than 10,000 North Korean laborers still employed in Russia, many working in the logging industry in the Russian Far East, are being kicked out by the end of this year as a 2017 UN sanctions resolution takes effect. The laborers, who previously numbered as many as 50,000, have provided a revenue stream estimated by US officials in the hundreds of millions of dollars that the Kim regime would like to keep flowing.

Kim is also looking at the possibility of a food shortage this summer. Russia has shown a willingness to provide humanitarian aid and just last month announced it had shipped more than 2,000 tons of wheat to the North Korean port of Chongjin. But his decision to more actively court Putin undoubtedly goes deeper than that. Despite all the talk in Washington about denuclearization, Kim's primary concern is improving his country's economy. Per internal documents obtained by a South Korean researcher and published this week in a Japanese newspaper, Kim wants to boost trade with Russia tenfold—to $1 billion—by 2020.
That would obviously require some significant easing of sanctions, which seems unlikely. But it would also require a change in Russian behavior. The AP has more on what the Kim-Putin summit could mean, and what could emerge as a result. (Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)

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