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BREAKING NEWS:

Putin ready to meet N Korean leader Kim at 'early date'

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AFP, Seoul :
Russian President Vladimir Putin is ready to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "at an early date", the North's state media reported Wednesday, amid a rapid diplomatic thaw on the peninsula.
Putin invited Kim and the South's President Moon Jae-in in June to an economic forum in Vladivostok next month although it is not known whether the North Korean leader responded to the invitation.
In a message to Kim on the North's National Liberation Day - marking the end of Japanese rule over Korea at the end of the Second World War - Putin reiterated his intention for a summit.
"I affirm that I am ready to meet you at an early date to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations and important matters of the region," Putin said in a message carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
The message did not offer a specific date for the meeting.
Putin expressed hopes to further develop "reciprocal cooperation including the realisation of the tripartite project" that would also involve South Korea.
Kim also sent a message to Putin, KCNA reported, noting the "valuable tradition" of their joint wartime struggle against Japan was the "strong roots" of their bilateral relations.
The message gave no response to Putin's invitation, although KCNA did not make it clear if Kim's message came before or after the letter from Moscow.
The rapid diplomatic thaw on the Korean Peninsula since the Winter Olympics has seen Kim meet with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in twice, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump.
BEIJING (Kyodo) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been asked again by Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold a summit meeting as soon as possible, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday.
"I am ready to meet you at an early date to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations and important matters of the region," Putin was quoted by KCNA as telling Kim in a congratulatory message to mark the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonization.
Putin also expressed an eagerness to realize potential joint projects involving Russia, North Korea and South Korea, such as infrastructure investment and energy development, which have so far been blocked by international economic sanctions on the North.
Pyongyang and Moscow have already agreed to hold a summit meeting by the end of this year. Putin has invited Kim to the annual Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in September, but North Korea has not announced its response to the invitation.
Since earlier this year, North Korea has started to pursue diplomacy with neighbors China and South Korea as well as the United States, with Kim pledging to achieve "complete" denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
Russia and China have become willing to relax some of the international sanctions, aimed at preventing North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, foreign affairs experts say.
Aug. 15 is the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II in 1945 and the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from decades of Japanese colonial rule.

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