- Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the first time on Thursday.
- They chiefly discussed North Korea’s nuclear program. They met on an island off Vladivostok, in eastern Russia.
- But one thing that stood out from the summit was how much Putin gave face to Kim by showing up half an hour early to their meeting.
- Putin is notoriously late to meetings, and has kept people like US President Donald Trump, Pope Francis, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting, sometimes for hours.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un met for the first time on Thursday – and the Russian president broke a habit of a lifetime by not showing up late to see his North Korean counterpart.
The two leaders met on Russky Island, near the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, in a summit focused on North Korea’s nuclear program. It comes two months after Kim’s denuclearization talks with US President Donald Trump abruptly broke down.
Both leaders emerged from the meetings later on Thursday with warm words for one another, but no specifics on anything they might do as a result of the meeting.
One thing that stood out from the summit was how much Putin appeared to show his respect for Kim, who not long ago was an international pariah.
The Russian leader, who has a long track record of making world leaders wait for him, arrived at the venue 30 minutes before Kim.
According to screenshots of Russian state TV, posted by NK News correspondent Colin Zwirko, Putin arrived at the venue – the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University – at 1:35 p.m. local time, while Kim arrived at 2:05 p.m.
Both leaders appeared to have run late, however, as the summit was supposed to start at 1 p.m. according to previous Kremlin notices cited by the BBC.
These time stamps on stills from Rossiya-24, a state news channel airing the summit, are in Moscow Standard Time, which is seven hours behind Vladivostok:
Putin is in the building pic.twitter.com/X2SPeqvhDe
— Colin Zwirko (@ColinZwirko) April 25, 2019
Spoke too soon! pic.twitter.com/GIg1wcb6Nx
— Colin Zwirko (@ColinZwirko) April 25, 2019
Putin is always late
The deference that Putin appeared to show Kim is unusual, given his image as a strongman with only Russia’s interests in mind.
Last year he arrived 45 minutes late to his meeting with Trump in Helsinki, Finland, leaving the US president waiting, according to figures compiled by Statista.
In 2015, he arrived at a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican 50 behind schedule.
And in 2014, he kept German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting at a private dinner for a record 4 hours and fifteen minutes.
According to Putin’s ex-wife, Lyudmila Putina, the Russian president was often late to private events as well. She said, according to The Guardian: “I was never late, but Vladimir Vladimirovich always was. An hour and a half was normal … The first 15 minutes of lateness are OK, half an hour also fine. But when an hour goes by and he’s still not there, you start crying.”
Optimistic but vague talks
Putin and Kim came out of their talks optimistic about their relationship, but remained vague on details.
After a smaller meeting with Kim and a few aides, which according to Reuters ran twice as long as the 50 minutes scheduled, Putin said: “We talked, of course, about the situation on the Korean peninsula, we exchanged views on how and what we can do so that there are good prospects for an improvement in the situation.”
There were no further details on the talks.
Kim added that he had come to Russia especially to meet Putin and to discuss his country’s nuclear program after talks with the US stalled in February.
Prior to the meeting, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that Putin would try to revive the six-party talks, a discussion between North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the US on North Korea’s nuclear program that started in 2003 but are currently stalled.
Peskov said on Wednesday, according to NK News: “The six-party talks are a format that is designed to help find solutions to solving the problem of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“There are currently no other effective international mechanisms,” he added.
… But Putin might have ignored one of Kim’s biggest wishes
On top of holding nuclear discussions, Kim was likely also trying to persuade Putin to side with him on easing international sanctions on North Korea, Business Insider’s Rosie Perper reported on Wednesday.
This appeared not to work, as Moscow has remained committed to keeping sanctions in place until North Korea dismantles its nuclear program. Reuters cited analysts as saying that Thursday’s summit would unlikely help Pyongyang on this front.
Kim is likely also trying to court broader Russian investment into the North Korean economy, which he has been trying to revive over the past few years. It’s not whether or not they agreed to step up their economic partnership.
Kim, who arrived in Vladivostok on Wednesday in his personal armoured train, is likely to stay there until Friday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.