Moscow: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il arrived in Russia on Saturday and will meet with President Dmitry Medvedev during his visit, the Kremlin said.
North Korea’s state news agency did not specify a meeting with Medvedev but said that Kim’s visit was at the invitation of the Russian President.
It is Kim’s first trip to Russia since 2002 and is the latest sign that North Korea is trying to reach out in an effort to secure aid and restart stalled nuclear disarmament talks.
South Korean officials reported that Kim’s train had arrived in the Russian border city of Khasan, but the first confirmation that Kim was in Russia came in statements issued simultaneously by the Kremlin and North Korea’s official news agency.
Kim will visit the Far East region of Russia and travel west to Siberia, the Kremlin and North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
KCNA said in an English dispatch that “top leaders” of the two countries would meet. There were no details on how long Kim’s trip would last or when a meeting would take place.
On his first trip to Russia in 2001, Kim made a 24-day train trek across the country. His trip the following year was limited to the Far East and lasted four days.
Russia and North Korea both announced Friday that Moscow was providing food assistance to the North. 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.
Russia’s Foreign Minister also said Moscow was in talks with Pyongyang and Seoul separately on putting gas pipes through the Korean peninsula.
Russia and North Korea maintain cordial ties, though they are not as close as they were in Soviet times, when Moscow provided significant aid and support to Pyongyang. Moscow is a member of six-party forum aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs in exchange for aid and security guarantees.
Last month, a senior North Korean diplomat visited New York to discuss ways to resume six-nation talks last held in December 2008. The discussions came after the nuclear envoys of the Koreas met in Indonesia for talks.