Russian President Vladimir Putin says North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is ready to denuclearise but needs solid security guarantees to proceed.
Speaking after their meeting in Vladivostock, in Russia's far-east, the pair said they held "fruitful" talks over how to defuse a standoff over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.
Mr Putin emphasised that the North Korean leader will only move toward a nuclear-free status when he gets solid guarantees.
He did not, however, specify what those guarantees would look like.
“Above all, he focuses on protecting national interests and security,” Mr Putin said.
Mr Kim’s meeting with Mr Putin follows a year of intense diplomacy.
North Korea hopes they will soon have international sanctions over its nuclear weapons and long-range missile programmes lifted.
Mr Kim has already held summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and South Korean President Moon Jae-on.
This visit comes two months after his second summit with President Donald Trump failed because of disputes over US-led sanctions on the North.
The trip to Russia reflects his desire to put more pressure on Washington.
Speaking at the start of the talks, Mr Putin said Russia would like to support attempts to normalise the relationship between Pyongyang and Washington.
He immediately emphasised that he was willing to share details of the talks with Mr Trump.
Russia's role as a potential broker shows Mr Putin's desire to expand the country's clout in the region and get more leverage with Washington.
“We welcome your efforts to develop an inter-Korean dialogue and normalise North Korea’s relations with the United States,” Mr Putin told Mr Kim.
Mr Kim described the talks as “candid and meaningful”.
The leader said the point of the visit was to discuss how to pursue stability in the Korean Peninsula and regional political situation.
“Ceaselessly bolstering and developing strategic and traditional relations between North Korea and Russia … is my and my government’s firm and unwavering position,” Mr Kim said at a state banquet.
Since the Trump-Kim talks ended in February, there have since been no publicly known high-level contacts between the US and North Korea, although both sides say they are still open to a third summit.
Mr Kim wants the US to ease the sanctions to reciprocate for some partial disarmament steps he took last year.
But the US maintains the sanctions will stay in place until North Korea makes more significant denuclearisation moves.
North Korea has increasingly expressed frustration at the deadlocked negotiations.
Last week, it tested a new weapon and demanded that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo be removed from the nuclear talks.
Mr Kim arrived in Vladivostok Wednesday on board an armoured train.
- Kim Jong-un's arrival in Vladivostock did not quite go to plan
Mr Kim offered what is possibly his first interview ever with a foreign media outlet.
He told Russian state television that he was hoping that his first visit to Russia would “successful and useful”.
He evoked his father’s “great love for Russia” and said that he intends to strengthen ties between the two countries.
The late Kim Jong-il made three trips to Russia, last time in 2011.
Like the US, Russia has strongly opposed Pyongyang’s nuclear bid.
Mr Putin has welcomed President Trump’s meetings with Mr Kim, but urged the US to do more to assure Pyongyang over security concerns.
Speaking before the talks, Mr Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said that Russia will seek to “consolidate the positive trends” stemming from Trump-Kim meetings.
He noted that the Kremlin would try to help “create preconditions and a favourable atmosphere for reaching solid agreements on the problem of the Korean Peninsula”.
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 investment to modernise its dilapidated Soviet-built industrial plants, railways and other infrastructure.
Vladivostok, a city of more than half a million on the Sea of Japan, faced gridlock on its roads as traffic was blocked in the city centre due to Mr Kim’s visit.
The authorities have temporarily closed the waters around Russky Island to all maritime traffic.
Mr Kim is expected to return to Pyongyang on Friday.