North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a “deliberate move” to snub China, its most important trading partner, by heading directly to Russia and refraining from a stopover in Beijing first, according to Jenny Town, a fellow at the Stimson Center. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight, Ms Town said: “I think they are very anxious and very concerned as to what it is the Russians are offering North Korea. I think it makes them very uncomfortable when Russia is to forward leaning on the North Korea issue because the Chinese do see it as more of their sphere of influence to take the lead on and that Russia should be supporting more of a Chinese stance.
“So, the idea that Kim Jong-un went to Vladivostok and didn’t go to Beijing first is deliberate, I’m sure and, certainly, is a cause for concern in Beijing as to what is this changing dynamic.”
The professor said Kim Jong-un is becoming “more confident and comfortable” in the international space.
She added: “He has really engineered a process where he is an active negotiator as leader and negotiating with world leaders.
“He really has elevated his status.”
Following the historic summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin was full of praise for the North Korean leader and “welcomed” his efforts to “normalise” its nuclear weapons programme.
Mr Putin also pushed to progress “bilateral relations” with Pyongyang and seek a solution to the ongoing rift between North Korea and the US.
The Russian leader said: “I’m sure your visit to Russia will also help to develop our bilateral relations and will help us to understand the ways we can help to settle the situation on the Korean Peninsula, what can be done together, what Russia can do to support the positive processes that are taking their place now.
“We welcome your efforts on developing inter-Korean dialogue and your efforts on normalising the US-North Korean relations. And of course, in terms of bilateral agenda, we need to achieve a lot to develop trade and economic ties and humanitarian ties.”
Kim, who had arrived in Vladivostok a day earlier on board his armoured train, said the situation on the Korean peninsula “is an issue that the world is very interested in.”
He said he hoped for “a very useful meeting in developing the relationship between the two countries, who have a long friendship and history, into a more stable and sound one”.
Mr Kim said: “I would like to offer again sincere gratitude to Mr President for making time in his busy schedule and come thousands of miles from the capital city of Moscow to here to give us time for a great conversation.
“We are visiting Russia this time to meet in person with President Putin and exchange our opinions. It is to exchange our mutual views on the Korean Peninsula and this region’s political landscape which is a great focus of the world’s attention.”
The landmark summit comes just two months on from a second meeting between Chairman Kim and US President Donald Trump.
However, talks between the two nuclear superpowers in Hanoi broke down over disagreements over US sanctions.
Following the Hanoi summit, Russia’s former North Korean ambassador Gleb Ivashentsev, said Kim forced “the head of the largest imperialist nation to negotiate with him as an equal”.