North Korean leader Kim Jong Un complained of "US hegemonism" to Russia's visiting Foreign Minister yesterday, as one of his top lieutenants was in New York trying to pave the way for a summit with President Donald Trump.
Kim told Sergei Lavrov that he hopes to boost co-operation with Russia, which has remained largely on the sidelines in recent months as Kim has reached out diplomatically to the United States as well as to South Korea and China.
"As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward," Kim told Lavrov.
His comments came as senior North Korean envoy Kim Yong Chol was in New York for talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the planned summit.
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After his meeting with Kim Yong Chol, Pompeo said "real progress" has been made in the last three days toward setting the conditions needed for Trump and Kim Jong Un to have a successful summit in Singapore. Still, Pompeo said he doesn't yet know whether the meeting will proceed on the announced date of June 12 and that he believes North Korea's leaders are contemplating a different path forward that would allow their nation to more fully integrate into the international community.
Kim Yong Chol, the highest-level North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years, plans to travel to Washington to convey a personal letter by Kim Jong Un to Trump.
Kim Jong Un's comment on US hegemonism wasn't carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency, which targets an external audience. The agency quoted Kim as saying that the North's willingness for the "denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula still remains unchanged" but also that the process should be on a "stage-by-stage basis by founding a solution to meet the interests of each other".
North Korea and Russia share a border and have relatively cordial relations that President Vladimir Putin has seemed to want to develop further. But Russia has kept a low profile as Kim has emerged on to the world stage this year, meeting twice with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae In.
Lavrov's visit suggests Russia wants to become involved and make sure North Korea informs it of its intentions and is mindful of Moscow's concerns.
In their talks, Lavrov relayed Putin's "warmest regards and best wishes" for Kim's "big endeavours" on the Korean Peninsula.