By Elizabeth Llorente
Published April 25, 2019
Former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Bill Richardson said on “America’s Newsroom” Thursday that the first summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was short on substance, but long on the kind of symbolism that both men need.
“It’s not much substance,” said Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico. “No economic assistance went to Kim, but it fulfills the objectives of the two leaders.”
“For Putin, it shows he is still a major player on the world stage. For Kim, it shows he is not isolated diplomatically,” Richardson said.
“And basically Kim is building support in two areas with Russia – one, give me a little sanctions relief, in other words, cheat a little bit on the border, let some of that oil come in. And secondly, I think he is saying Russia needs to be part of the countries that supervise any deal between the U.S. and North Korea, the way they used to 10 years ago, the six-party talks included Russia, but they’ve been excluded the last 10 years.”
After the two leaders’ summit, Putin said that the North Korean leader confirmed during it that he is willing to give up his nuclear weapons — but only if he gets an ironclad security guarantee first.
The Russian president stressed that Moscow and Washington both want North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons. But he said the security guarantees should be underwritten by multiple countries, hinting at an arrangement like the six-nation talks that Richardson referred to in the “America’s Newsroom” interview.
Putin added that Kim encouraged him to explain the nuances of Pyongyang’s position to President Donald Trump. He said he’s willing to share details of the summit with the American president.
Putin’s remarks, after the one-day summit just off the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, reflect Kim’s growing frustration with Washington’s efforts to maintain “maximum pressure” until the North commits to denuclearization.
Richardson said that the Trump administration should proceed with caution in its dealings with Kim.
“I hope the president is not too hasty in saying ‘Let’s have another summit,’” Richardson said. “He has to enable the secretary of state to narrow the differences. We have not decided what our strategy is and the North Koreans want us to have full sanctions off. We don’t want that to happen unless they take concrete steps toward denuclearization, which they have not.”
Richardson, who traveled to North Korea several times as a special U.S. envoy, said Trump should let others in his administration conduct talks with the North Korean leader's officials to bring the two sides closer together on denuclearization and the sanctions before another possible meeting between Trump and Kim.
Trump’s much-anticipated meeting with Kim, held in late February in the Vietnamese capital, ended abruptly and without the two leaders signing any agreements. Trump spoke with reporters soon after the talks broke down and said the dispute over sanctions was the deal breaker. Trump said he walked away from his second summit with Kim Jong Un because Kim demanded the U.S. lift all of its sanctions, a claim that North Korea’s delegation called a rare news conference in the middle of the night to deny.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.