North Korea's Kim on way to Russia to meet Putin on Thursday

Oil tankers are parked at the Okeanskaya railway station where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to make his first stop before his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the border at Russia's Far East, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. North Korea on Tuesday confirmed that leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet with Putin in a rare summit. (AP Photo/Alexander Khitrov)
FILE In this Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during their meeting in Moscow, Russia. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week expands a diplomatic charm offensive that has included meetings with leaders from China, South Korea and the United States. (Sergei Velichkin/TASS/Sputnik Kremlin via AP, File)
FILE - This combination file photo, shows Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, in St. Petersburg, Russia, April 9, 2019, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Feb. 28, 2019. When Kim meets with Putin for their first one-on-one meeting, he will have a long wish list and a strong desire to notch a win after the failure of his second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in February 2019. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky, Evan Vucci, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, May 31, 2018 file photo, Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov shake hands during a meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 confirmed that leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet with Putin in a rare summit. For Russia, a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offers a chance to raise its influence in the region and gain more leverage with Washington. (Valery Sharifulin/TASS News Agency Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this file Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, clinks glasses with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week expands a diplomatic charm offensive that has included meetings with leaders from China, South Korea and the United States.(Vladimir Vyatkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)
FILE - In this file Saturday, Aug. 4, 2001 file photo, Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, listens to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, during their meeting in Moscow. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin this week expands a diplomatic charm offensive that has included meetings with leaders from China, South Korea and the United States.(Sergei Velichkin/TASS/Sputnik Kremlin via AP, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un take a walk after their first meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel, in Hanoi. North Korea on Tuesday, April 23, 2019 confirmed that leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet with Putin in a rare summit. For Russia, a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un offers a chance to raise its influence in the region and gain more leverage with Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
A man passes by a TV screen showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. North Korea confirmed Tuesday that Kim will soon visit Russia to meet with Putin in a summit that comes at a crucial moment for tenuous diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nuclear arsenal. The screen reads: "Kim Jong Un visits Russia soon." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A woman walks past the Memorial plaque in memory of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's visit to Russia in 2002, at the Okeanskaya railway station where North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to make his first stop before his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in the border at Russia's Far East, Tuesday, April 23, 2019.North Korea on Tuesday confirmed that leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet with Putin in a rare summit. (AP Photo/Alexander Khitrov)
A worker adjusts the flag of Russia and North Korea along the road in Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, Tuesday, April. 23, 2019. Preparations are underway for a summit between the leader of North Korea and Russia's president, Russian officials and media reported Tuesday. Russian media have widely reported that the leaders will meet in the port city of Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. (Naoya Osato/Kyodo News via AP)
In this photo taken Aug. 15, 2001, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, right, toasts with North Korean and Russian officials inside a train somewhere in Russia. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, like his father Kim Jong Il, is likely to travel by train to Vladivostok in Russia for a much-anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on upcoming Thursday, a Kremlin adviser said, putting an end to weeks of speculation about when and where it would take place. (Georgy Toloraya via AP)
A worker adjusts the flag of Russia and North Korea along the road in Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, Tuesday, April. 23, 2019. Preparations are underway for a summit between the leader of North Korea and Russia's president, Russian officials and media reported Tuesday. Russian media have widely reported that the leaders will meet in the port city of Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean. (Naoya Osato/Kyodo News via AP)
People watch a TV screen showing images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, during a news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 23, 2019. North Korea confirmed Tuesday that Kim will soon visit Russia to meet with Putin in a summit that comes at a crucial moment for tenuous diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nuclear arsenal. The Korean letters on the screen read:: "Kim Jong Un plans to visit Russia ." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a much-anticipated summit Thursday, the Kremlin said, ending weeks of speculation about the meeting's timing and venue.

Preparations for the meeting in Vladivostok, a Russia city on the Pacific, were held in secrecy because of North Korean security concerns, Kremlin adviser Yuri Ushakov said Tuesday.

Ushakov said the talks would focus on the standoff over the North's nuclear program, noting that Russia will seek to "consolidate the positive trends" stemming from U.S. President Donald Trump's meetings with Kim.

Kim left Pyongyang by his special train at dawn Wednesday as he heads to Russia with top government and military officials, according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency. It said officials and residents gathered at Pyongyang's train station to see him off.

Kim will be the first North Korean leader to travel to Russia since his late father, Kim Jong Il, visited in 2011.

Kim Jong Un had two summits with Trump, but the latest in Vietnam in February collapsed because North Korea wanted more relief from sanctions than Washington was willing to give for the amount of nuclear disarmament offered by Pyongyang.

Some experts say Kim could try to bolster his country's ties with Russia and China as he's increasingly expressed frustration at the lack of U.S. steps to match the partial disarmament steps he took last year.

It's not clear how big of a role Russia can play in efforts to restart the nuclear diplomacy. But the summit could allow Putin to try to increase his influence in regional politics and the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program.

Putin's adviser added that the Kremlin would try to help "create preconditions and a favorable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula," Ushakov said.

Ushakov pointed at a Russia-China roadmap that offered a step-by-step approach to solving the nuclear standoff and called for sanctions relief and security guarantees to Pyongyang. He noted that the North's moratorium on nuclear tests and scaling down of U.S.-South Korean military drills helped reduce tensions and created conditions for further progress.

Ushakov said that Putin-Kim summit's agenda will also include bilateral cooperation. He added that Russia's trade with North Korea is minuscule at just $34 million last year, mostly because of the international sanctions against Pyongyang.

Russia would like to gain broader access to North Korea's mineral resources, including rare metals. Pyongyang, for its part, covets Russia's electricity supplies and wants to attract Russian investment to modernize its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.

In the meantime, Vladivostok has been seeing a number of unusually strict security measures. Maritime authorities said Tuesday that the waters around Russky Island, off the southern tip of Vladivostok, would be closed to all maritime traffic between Wednesday morning and Friday morning.

The island, which is home to a university with a conference hall, is seen as a likely summit venue.

Separately, local media reported that some platforms at Vladivostok's main train station would be closed for several days, and that buses will be rerouted from the train station Wednesday.

News website Vl.ru reported that municipal authorities undertook road works to make the entryway in and out of the train station less steep — presumably to allow Kim's limousine to drive straight out from the platform.

North Korea has so far not gotten what it wants most from the recent flurry of high-level summitry between Kim and various world leaders — namely, relief from crushing international sanctions. There are fears that a recent North Korean weapon test and a series of jibes at Washington over deadlocked nuclear negotiations mean that Pyongyang may again return to the nuclear and long-range missile tests that had many in Asia fearing war in 2017.

North Korea announced last week that it had tested what it called a new type of "tactical guided weapon." While unlikely to be a prohibited test of a medium- or long-range ballistic missile that could scuttle the negotiations, the announcement signaled the North's growing disappointment with the diplomatic breakdown.

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Associated Press writer Hyung-jin Kim contributed to this report from Seoul, South Korea.

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