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Ready to denuclearize?

Russian President Vladimir Putin said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un confirmed during their first summit Thursday he is willing to give up his nuclear weapons — but only if he gets an ironclad guarantee of security beforehand.

The Russian president stressed that Moscow and Washington both want North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. But he said the security guarantees should be underwritten by multiple countries, hinting at an arrangement like the six-nation talks Russia participated in until their collapse in 2009.

Putin added that Kim encouraged him to explain the nuances of Pyongyang's position to President Donald Trump. He said he's willing to share details of the summit with the American president.

"I will talk about it tomorrow with the leadership of China," Putin said before heading to Beijing on a two-day visit after meeting Kim. "And we will just as openly discuss this issue with the U.S. leadership. There are no secrets. Russia's position always has been transparent. There are no plots of any kind."

Putin's remarks after the one-day summit just off the Pacific port city of Vladivostok reflect Kim's growing frustration with Washington's efforts to maintain "maximum pressure" until the North commits to denuclearization.

But his characterization of Kim's comments also suggests there have been no major changes in North Korea's basic position.

North Korea has all along contended that it needs its nuclear arsenal to defend itself against what it sees as U.S. hostility and wants concrete reassurances of its safety — including the removal of the American nuclear threat as an integral part of the denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula.

It wasn't immediately clear what other agreements the leaders might have struck.

Along with a statement of political support, Kim was believed to be looking for some kind of economic support and possibly even a workaround to sanctions that will force more than 10,000 North Korean labourers in Russia to leave by the end of the year. The labourers are a major source of income for Pyongyang.

On the economic front, both sides share an interest in enhanced co-operation if sanctions are eased.

Russia would like to gain broader access to North Korea's mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia's electricity supplies and investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.

For Putin, the summit was also seen an opportunity for Russia to emerge as an essential player in the North Korean nuclear standoff.

Moscow has kept a relatively low profile as Kim embarked on what has been an audacious diplomatic journey over the past year.

The Putin summit follows four summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping, three with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and two with Trump. Despite the current stalemate, Trump has said he would like to meet Kim again. Moon said Thursday he'll try to hold a fourth summit with Kim and facilitate the resumption of U.S.-North Korea talks.



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