SOSNOVY BOR, Russia (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong-il is ready to discuss suspending Pyongyang’s nuclear arms testing and production if international talks on its atomic program resume, a Kremlin spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
The pledge, made during talks with President Dmitry Medvedev, appeared intended to increase the chances of reviving the six-nation aid-for-disarmament talks which collapsed when North Korea walked out of them in 2008.
“Kim Jong-il expressed readiness to return to six-party talks without preconditions,” Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said after the president met Kim at a military base in the Siberian town of Sosnovy Bor near Lake Baikal.
“In the course of the talks the North Koreans will be ready to resolve the issue of imposing a moratorium on testing and production of missile and nuclear weaponry.”
The reclusive North Korean leader, who arrived in nearby Ulan-Ude on Tuesday in an armored train on his first talks in Russia since 2002, did not speak to reporters after the talks some 4,420 km (2,750 miles) east of Moscow.
The United States and South Korea have called on North Korea to agree to a moratorium before the six-party talks reconvene.
But Timakova’s comments suggested Kim wanted no discussion of the moratorium before a resumption of the talks, in which Russia, China and Japan are also involved.
The talks are intended to provide impoverished and secretive North Korea with economic aid as an incentive for giving up its nuclear weapons program.
Moscow and Beijing have called for a quick resumption of talks. Seoul, Washington and Tokyo say they are willing to resume the talks where they left off, but that Pyongyang must show it is serious about denuclearizing.
The time and day of Wednesday’s meeting were not announced until the last minute although Kim, 69, had been traveling across Russia since arriving near the Pacific coast on Saturday. He travelled by train because of his fear of flying.
Kim, who wore khaki military jacket and trousers, was driven to the military base in a black Mercedes. He had spent the previous day boating on Lake Baikal, the North’s state news agency said.
“Thanks to special attention and care on your part, Mr. President, we are having a happy trip,” he told Medvedev.
The autocratic leader has sought help from regional powers in recent months for his impoverished nation, struggling with floods and international economic sanctions imposed over its nuclear weapons program.
He has left isolated North Korea to visit China, which now has more influence on Pyongyang than Russia, three times in less than two years.
Citing a “severe deficit” of food products, Russia said on Friday it would send 50,000 tonnes of grain to North Korea by the end of September. The North has also been seeking foreign investment to improve infrastructure.