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N Korea at crossroads

North Korean leader Kim again asked by Putin to meet at early date

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Kim photo by KCNA/Reuters, Putin photo by Reuters)

BEIJING (Kyodo) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been asked again by Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold a summit meeting as soon as possible, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday.

"I am ready to meet you at an early date to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations and important matters of the region," Putin was quoted by KCNA as telling Kim in a congratulatory message to mark the anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonization.

Putin also expressed an eagerness to realize potential joint projects involving Russia, North Korea and South Korea, such as infrastructure investment and energy development, which have so far been blocked by international economic sanctions on the North.

Pyongyang and Moscow have already agreed to hold a summit meeting by the end of this year. Putin has invited Kim to the annual Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Vladivostok in September, but North Korea has not announced its response to the invitation.

Since earlier this year, North Korea has started to pursue diplomacy with neighbors China and South Korea as well as the United States, with Kim pledging to achieve "complete" denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.

Russia and China have become willing to relax some of the international sanctions, aimed at preventing North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, foreign affairs experts say.

Aug. 15 is the anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II in 1945 and the liberation of the Korean Peninsula from decades of Japanese colonial rule.

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