‘Kim to Russia’ Gathering Media Steam

Rumors of a meeting between Kim Jong Il and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia are gathering steam, with Mainichi Shimbun and other media outlets reporting today that the purported summit will occur on July 1st in Vladivostok, the capital of the Russian Far East.

Citing multiple intelligence sources, Mainichi claims, “Russia is seeking an improved relationship with North Korea for the sake of the security of Northeast Asia, while North Korea is pushing for the summit to draw economic aid from Russia.”

The newspaper predicts, unsurprisingly, that Kim will travel by armored personal train across North Korea’s northern border.

When asked about the precise timing of the meeting, Governor of Primorsky Krai Sergey Darkin has been quoted as telling reporters in Moscow, “I cannot comment on the plans of foreign leaders. You will find out soon.”

The idea of a meeting was first mooted in the Russian and Japanese press on the 24th when, citing local Russian officials, it was reported that a meeting was being considered, and that it would occur either in Vladivostok or somewhere along the border between the two states.

The rumor was lent credence by the fact that President Medvedev is set to visit Vladivostok at the end of this month to check on preparations for next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, which is to be held in the city.

Commenting on the possible meeting today, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade pointed out, “High official meetings between North Korea and Russia or North Korea and any other country are acceptable. We expect these kinds of exchanges and contacts to be implemented in a positive way, so that they can contribute to reform and change in North Korea.”

Meanwhile, analyzing the possible reasons for the meeting, experts on relations between the powers in the region believe that North Korea may be politically interested in trying to construct a counterweight to China’s burgeoning influence over it, something which has long concerned North Korean leaders.

However, there was also apparently discussion of a number of economic issues between Kim and Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service head Mikhail Fradkov during the latter’s mid-May visit to Pyongyang, including a train connection between the two countries and the issue of a long-mooted gas pipeline that could connect South Korea directly to Russia’s vast gas reserves.