Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, arrived via train in Russia on Wednesday, a day ahead of his summit with President Vladimir Putin.
Russian state media showed Kim’s armored train arriving at Vladivostok, a port city on the Pacific coast. North Korean attendants polished the outside of Kim’s train car as it pulled into the station. The door to Kim’s carriage was intended to line up with a red carpet. The train overshot its mark by a few feet. Everyone waited as the train backed up. Kim finally exited.
The North Korean leader, smiling and wearing a black hat, was greeted by Vladivostok’s regional governor. The two walked toward the street and briefly watched a small military parade before Kim was spirited away in his limousine, surrounded by a jogging phalanx of bodyguards.
This is Kim’s first trip to Russia and first meeting with Putin.
Kim, who began ruling North Korea in 2011, is expected to stay there days, but the trip has been shrouded in secrecy.
Thursday’s summit will be on the campus of Far East Federal University on Russky Island, which is linked to Vladivostok by bridge.
After the summit, Kim reportedly plans to tour cultural sites, possibly including, as reported by the Russian newspaper Kommersant, the Mariinsky Theater and the Russian Pacific Fleet’s museum.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, reportedly landed in Vladivostok on Monday, while Kim’s chief of protocol, Kim Chang Son, has been in the city since last week supervising preparations, according to Russian and South Korean media reports.
Kim avoids flying. After his 420-mile trip from Pyongyang by armored train, he was greeted by women in traditional folks dresses who offered him bread and salt — as is tradition.
The meeting between Kim and Putin comes as North Korea and the United States still can’t agree on much of anything. A second summit between Kim and President Donald Trump abruptly ended in February with nothing resolved.
The North Koreans have since claimed to have tested a new weapon and asked that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo no longer be involved in negotiations between the two nations.
Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said Putin and Kim will discuss questions surrounding North Korea’s nuclear ambitions as well as bilateral issues. Kim told a Russian state TV reporter he hoped to advance concrete efforts for ending the Korean Peninsula conflict.
Russia portrays itself as friendly toward North Korea and often criticizes the U.S. for refusing to make concessions. Russia supports North Korea’s economy, even when sanctioning it, as tens of thousands of North Koreans work in Russia — mostly as laborers — in defiance of a U.N. ban.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said last week it hoped the Kim-Putin summit proves “an opportunity that contributes to positive progress” toward denuclearization, but most experts aren’t expecting much — they believe Russia is holding the meeting now to demonstrate strength and that Kim made the trip to show he had other geopolitical options after he and Trump failed to cut a deal in Vietnam.