Russia calls for end to North Korea sanctions amid Lavrov-Kim meeting

Russia calls for North Korea sanctions to be lifted as Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meets with Kim Jong-un to ensure Kremlin has a hand in any Trump-Kim summit

  • Sergei Lavrov flew into Pyongyang on Thursday for a meeting with Kim Jong-un
  • The talks are the first time Kim has received a Russian dignitary in North Korea 
  • Efforts are ongoing to salvage a planned summit between Kim and Trump
  • Lavrov warned Kim not to ditch his nuclear weapons before sanctions were lifted

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 a potential summit between North Korea and the US.

‘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.

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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 a potential summit. 

President Trump and Kim had planned to meet in Singapore for a meeting on June 12 to discuss the potential for denationalization and greater cooperation between North and South Korea.

Efforts are currently underway to restore the plans after Trump dramatically announced he was pulling out of the summit in a letter to Kim in May. 

Kim’s right hand man General Kim Yong Chol flew into New York on Wednesday to try and salvage 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

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted photos of his working dinner with Kim’s right-hand man in New York on Wednesday.

Kim Yong Chol met with Pompeo in Manhattan, where the two dined on ‘steak, corn, and cheese,’ according to the secretary of state. 

He is the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States since 2000, when Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok traveled to Washington to meet with then-President Bill Clinton in the Oval Office. 

Pompeo’s talks with Kim Yong Chol – the most critical of three tracks of negotiations currently taking place between the two governments in the U.S., in the heavily fortified Korean Demilitarized Zone, and in Singapore – are aimed at determining whether a meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un can be restored. 

Lavrov laying a wreath at the foot of two gigantic statues in the centre of Pyongyang of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-Sung

A dinner between Kim’s right hand man Kim Yong Chol and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was held at The Corinthian, a 57-story residential apartment building located in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, on Thursday

Kim Yong Chol met with Pompeo to try and salvage the summit, while lower-level officials have been meeting at the inter-Korean border and in Singapore for other pre-summit negotiations

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