Russia's Putin Sends North Korea's Kim a Letter

April 17, 2002 - 0:0
SEOUL - Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent North Korean Leader Kim Jong-Il a letter, North Korea's official KCNA news agency reported on Tuesday.

KCNA did not release the details of the letter, but it comes amid a flurry of visits and diplomatic exchanges involving North Korea, which is edging back towards the negotiating table with the United States and South Korea, Reuters reported.

KCNA said Kim had received Vladimir Yakovlev, governor of Russia's second city of St. Petersburg, on Monday and hosted a dinner for a Russian delegation.

"(Yakovlev) courteously conveyed to Leader Kim Jong-Il a...letter of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin," the news agency reported.

Yakovlev is scheduled to visit Seoul later this week to meet South Korean officials. Putin visited Pyongyang in 2000 and Kim Jong-Il traveled across Russia by train to Moscow last year.

North and South Korea have been technically still at war since their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

On Saturday, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, Thomas Hubbard, said in a speech Washington was cautiously optimistic about resuming dialogue with North Korea but Pyongyang should make up its mind with a sense of urgency.

Earlier this month, a South Korean presidential envoy met Kim Jong-Il in Pyongyang and handed him a letter from president Kim Dae-Jung urging him to resume U.S.-North Korea talks.

Envoy Lim Dong-Won said that letter had told the North Korean leader to understand U.S. strategy had changed since the September 11 hijack attacks on the United States and Washington was prepared to use force if diplomacy failed to halt proliferation of missiles and military technology.

The North's Kim said he understood the changes and wanted talks to resume.

A former U.S. ambassador to Seoul, Donald Gregg, also visited Pyongyang earlier this month and briefed South Korean officials on his talks there with senior officials, including a general.