North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed into Russia early Wednesday en route to a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, the local government in the state of Primorsky confirmed.
‘I'm pleased to be on Russian soil,’ Kim told Russian officials after his armoured train arrived at Hasan station in the south of the Primorsky region, according to a government statement.
He was greeted by Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov and Alexander Kozlov, the minister for Russia's Far East.
‘This is only the first step,’ the North Korean leader added, indicating he was planning further visits. Photos published on the local government's website showed a smiling Kim descending from the train and in a meeting with Russian officials.
Russian news agency TASS earlier reported that Kim planned to visit a wooden house built on the border on the occasion of the visit of Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, to Russia in 1986.
Kim's father Kim Jong Il also stopped there on his travels.
After leaving Hasan, Kim's train was expected to continue for seven hours to Ussuriysk, where it will switch to the Trans-Siberian Railway that leads to the eastern port city of Vladivostok where he is set to meet Putin on Thursday. He is due to stay until Friday.
It is Kim's first official visit to Russia and his first meeting with the Russian president, with the denuclearization of North Korea and economic cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang on the agenda.
Though Russia is keen to see North Korea's nuclear threat defused, it also wants to see tough international sanctions imposed on Pyongyang relaxed.
Kim is accompanied by top officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui, according to North Korean state news agency KCNA.
He has held two summits with US President Donald Trump over the past year as Washington, an ally of South Korea, seeks denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
However little progress has been made and February's meeting in Hanoi broke up early after the two sides failed to reach an agreement.
Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington have continued to simmer since then, with North Korea recently calling for the replacement of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a negotiator.
In addition to the increasing hostility toward Pompeo, North Korea last week tested a ‘new type of tactical guided weapon,’ KCNA reported.
It was the country's first known weapons test since the failed summit in Hanoi.
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