VLADIVOSTOK, Russia: In Russia’s Pacific port, residents said the stars may have aligned for a visit by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the United States fears could lead to more weapons supplies for Russia’s military in Ukraine.
Kim’s trip is still unconfirmed. It was first reported by the New York Times citing unidentified US officials and South Korea’s intelligence agency said it was possible. But state media in both North Korea and Russia have been silent.
The Kremlin said it had “nothing to say” on the matter, though President Vladimir Putin is due to speak this week at an economic forum in Russia’s Pacific port of Vladivostok, 6,500km east of Moscow.
One source who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters that a Kim visit was expected in coming days. Russia’s Interfax news agency cited several unidentified sources as saying that Kim was due to visit Russia’s far east shortly.
Kim appears to have departed for Russia on a train, South Korean broadcaster YTN reported on Monday, citing a government source.
Vladivostok is just 130km from Russia’s border with North Korea. If he does make the trip, it would be only his second known visit to Russia.
In Vladivostok, there was a higher police presence than usual on the streets but no North Korean flags had been put up – unlike last time when the city was adorned with the red five pointed stars that grace the Communist country’s flag.
In Vladivostok’s central square beside a monument to Red Army soldiers, Russians said they were awaiting Kim’s visit.
“Both countries show teeth to the whole world and can stand for themselves. So, there is something in common,” said Vladivostok resident Fyodor, who refused to give his surname.
Others pointed to the economic forum which Putin was attending.
“A forum is taking place, so it all adds up – he’ll come,” said Nikolai, who also declined to give his surname. “The security will be running after his limousine again.”