North Korean leader Kim Jong Un crossed the border into Russia on Wednesday by train, Russian media reported, for his first trip there aimed at galvanizing support from President Vladimir Putin while nuclear talks with Washington are in limbo.
Kim is expected to project himself as a serious world player with his first meeting with the Russian leader and at the same time seek assistance from a key ally to ease economic pressure brought on by U.S. and international sanctions, as reported by Reuters.
The young leader will meet with Putin in the Russian Pacific port of Vladivostok on Thursday with the nuclear stalemate with the United States topping the agenda, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov said.
"In the last few months the situation around the peninsula has stabilized somewhat, thanks in large part to North Korea's initiatives of stopping rocket testing and closing its nuclear test site," Ushakov told reporters.
"Russia intends to help in any way possible to cement that positive trend."
Arriving in an armored train at the Russian border station of Khasan, Kim was greeted with flowers and traditional gifts of bread and salt, the RIA news agency reported, citing an unnamed local government official.
He then toured the Russian-Korean Friendship House located at the station, built ahead of a 1986 visit by his late grandfather and state-founder and leader Kim Il Sung who died in 1994, RIA said.
The North's official KCNA news agency reported earlier on Wednesday that Kim departed for Russia accompanied by key aides including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho and veteran nuclear negotiator Choe Son Hui.
Kim is seeking to rally support from Moscow after his second meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Vietnam in February broke down over differences about demands for Pyongyang to denuclearize and for Washington to drop sanctions.
Kim would hope to get a break from crushing sanctions through his unprecedented summit with Putin but that is likely to prove elusive, analysts say.
Japan's NHK broadcaster reported citing an unnamed senior Russian official that Putin could propose a restart of the six-party denuclearization talks – which involved the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas – last held in 2008.