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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set to visit Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Pyongyang is seeking Russian investment, while Moscow wants more access to North Korea's mineral resources.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet President Vladimir Putin for the first time on Thursday, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov confirmed Tuesday.
"The focus will be on a political and diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula," he said, adding that the two leaders would meet in Russia's Far East.
The announcement came after North Korean state media said Kim would visit Russia "in the second half of April."
The meeting comes amid growing frustration in North Korea over stalled nuclear negotiations with the United States. While China is regarded as North Korea's closest ally, Moscow also enjoys good relations with Pyongyang.
The Putin-Kim summit is expected to be held on Vladivostok's Russky island, where Russian and North Korean flags could be seen flying on lamp posts on Tuesday.
A South Korean official told dpa news agency that Seoul welcomed the visit, which it understood to be part of the process to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.
While Russia is seeking broader access to North Korea's mineral resources, including rare metals, North Korea is seeking access to Russian electricity supplies and investment in infrastructure.
Pyongyang is desperate to modernize the country's Soviet-built industrial plants and railways.
Renewed Russian support
The Kremlin kept close ties with Pyongyang during the Soviet era, building dozens of factories and important pieces of infrastructure. It also sent supplies and provided weapons for the North Korean military.
That support ended after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, during Russia's economic meltdown.
Putin sought to reinvigorate ties with the country, visiting Pyongyang in July 2000. North Korea's then leader Kim Jong Il said that, in Putin, Russia had a leader "with whom to do business."
At the time, Putin boasted about securing a promise that North Korea would abandon its missile program in exchange for foreign help in launching satellites.
Although Kim quickly rebuffed the statement, relations remained warm and the North Korean leader crossed Russia by train to visit Moscow in 2001.
While military cooperation between the states was stopped by United Nations sanctions, Moscow provided grain and humanitarian aid to the North. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of North Korean migrant laborers have worked in Russia's underpopulated Far East.
amp, rc/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)