MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Pyongyang on Thursday invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit Russia, Moscow said, during the first meeting between the head of the reclusive state and a Russian official.
“Come to Russia, we’ll be very happy to see you,” Lavrov told Kim in remarks released by the Russian foreign ministry.
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.
Lavrov was the first Russian official to be received by Kim, Russian news agencies said. “It was the first official meeting with him face to face,” TASS quoted a source in the minister’s delegation as saying.
The Russian foreign ministry also released pictures of the two men shaking hands and smiling.
Russia’s top diplomat arrived in Pyongyang earlier Thursday, ahead of a landmark summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump.
His visit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to organise next month’s summit, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also meeting Kim’s right-hand man Kim Yong Chol in New York late Wednesday.
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.
Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in a verifiable way in return for sanctions and economic relief.
Pyongyang has a different view of denuclearisation and remains deeply worried that abandoning its deterrent would leave it vulnerable, especially while the United States maintains a robust military presence in South Korea.