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North Korea’s Kim tells Lavrov he’s committed to ‘denuclearization’ in ‘stages’

Kim Jong Un (Zennie Abraham/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov his commitment to denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “remains unchanged and consistent and fixed,” the official KCNA news agency reported on June 1.

At a meeting with Lavrov in Pyongyang on May 31, Kim said that he hoped U.S.-North Korean disputes and the denuclearization of the peninsula “will be solved on a stage-by-stage basis” and “that the solution of the issues will progress through effective and constructive dialogue and negotiation,” KCNA said.

Kim and Lavrov also agreed to boost exchanges and cooperation between North Korea and Russia, with the two agreeing to schedule a bilateral summit this year, the agency said.

Lavrov’s visit came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official held talks in New York on planning a historic summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

The main stumbling block between Washington and Pyongyang has been the two countries’ differing concepts of “denuclearization.” Both sides say they favor it, but there is a large gap between what they expect that to entail.

Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in a verifiable way in return for sanctions and economic relief.

But analysts say North Korea will be unwilling to cede its nuclear armaments unless it is given security guarantees that the United States will not try to topple Kim’s government.

Kim’s latest comments also indicate that he is hoping for a phased approach to denuclearization.

After the Pyongyang meeting, Lavrov also appeared to advocate a phased approach, warning against setting expectations too high and urging all sides to “avoid the temptation to demand everything and now,” according to a transcript of his remarks released by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters