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Russian, North Korean Leaders Meet in Vladivostok - 2002-08-23


Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il have held talks in the Russian Far East city of Vladivostok focusing on economic issues and military cooperation. The talks dealt with wider international issues as well.

Mr. Putin took the opportunity on Friday to underline his desire to play a role in reconciliation on the Korean peninsula. After the meeting, the Russian leader spoke to journalists.

Mr. Putin said he told his North Korean colleague that Russia would like to help normalize relations on the Korean peninsula. He said Moscow's offer was met with a warm reception by Mr. Kim.

Mr. Putin is one of the few world leaders to have contact with the leader of Communist North Korea. Recently, Moscow has indicated it would like to use that contact and influence to alleviate the tension between North and South Korea.

However, the United States has labeled North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, as part of what President Bush has called an Axis of Evil.

Relations between Russia and the United States blossomed since last year's September 11th terror attacks. But recently Russia has given signs that its improved relationship with the United States may not come at the expense of its relationship with former allies such as North Korea.

Less than a week ago, Iraq announced a new $40 billion economic cooperation deal with Iraq. Russia has also agreed to build more nuclear reactors in Iran, over strong U.S. objections.

Mr. Kim, who avoids flying, came to Russia by rail on Tuesday. During his stay, he traveled to several cities in the Russian Far East on a visit designed to focus on economic issues.

The North Korean leader has recently indicated he would like to implement some economic reforms in his country, while not abandoning the Communist system.

Mr. Kim, who rarely travels outside his own country, is expected to return home on Saturday.

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