Comments come at sensitive moment as Washington and Pyongyang try to ensure Trump-Kim summit goes ahead
Kim Jong-un has complained of “US hegemonism” to Russia’s visiting foreign minister as one of his top lieutenants visited New York trying to ensure that a summit with President Donald Trump goes ahead.
The North Korean ruler told Sergey Lavrov that he hoped to boost cooperation with Russia, which has remained largely on the sidelines in recent months as Kim has reached out diplomatically to the United States, South Korea and China.
“As we move to adjust to the political situation in the face of US hegemonism, I am willing to exchange detailed and in-depth opinions with your leadership and hope to do so moving forward,” Kim told Lavrov
Kim has previously made harsher comments and even threatened to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. But his comments on Thursday came at a sensitive moment. After meeting with the North Korean senior envoy Kim Yong Chol, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo said “real progress” has been made in the last three days toward setting the conditions needed for Trump and Kim Jong-un to have a successful summit in Singapore.
Pompeo still did not know whether the meeting would proceed on the announced date of 12 June, and said he believed North Korea’s leaders were contemplating a different path forward that would allow their nation to more fully integrate into the international community.
Kim Yong-chol, the highest-level North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years, plans to travel to Washington to convey a personal letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump.
Kim Jong-un’s comment on US hegemonism was not carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, which targets an external audience. The agency quoted Kim as saying that the North’s willingness for the “denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula still remains unchanged” but also that the process should be on a “stage-by-stage basis by founding a solution to meet the interests of each other”.
Since January, Kim has significantly toned down his rhetoric against Washington and Seoul following a year of heightened nuclear tensions that saw increased fears of war on the Korean Peninsula. But a return to blunt language by Kim led Trump last week to cancel the planned summit, though he quickly announced it might still go ahead.
Despite having a border with North Korea and relatively cordial relations that President Vladimir Putin has seemed to want to develop further, Russia has kept a surprisingly low profile as Kim has emerged on to the world stage this year, meeting twice with President Xi Jinping of China and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea.
Lavrov’s visit suggests Russia wants to become involved and make sure North Korea keeps it informed while taking into account Moscow’s concerns.
In their talks Lavrov relayed Putin’s “warmest regards and best wishes” for Kim’s “big endeavours” on the Korean Peninsula. He also expressed Moscow’s support for an agreement Kim reached with Moon at a summit last month that focused on measures to ease hostilities and increase exchanges between the two Koreas.
Video of the beginning of their meeting also showed Lavrov inviting Kim to Moscow.