Asia Minute: Vladivostok: Russia’s Asia Pacific Hub

Apr 25, 2019

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Putin and Kim are set to have one-on-one meeting at the Far Eastern State University on the Russky Island across a bridge from Vladivostok. The meeting will be followed by broader talks involving officials from both sides.
Credit Alexander Zemlianichenko / ASSOCIATED PRESS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in Russia today—meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The location of the meeting is a reminder that while some people tend to think of Russia as a European country, it also has an extensive presence in the Asia Pacific.

The Russian port of Vladivostok is less than a hundred miles from the border of North Korea.

Some media reports compared Kim Jong Un’s nine-hour train ride from Pyongyang to a flight that would take less than three hours to cover the same ground. But that’s nothing compared to the distance from Vladivostok to Moscow — which according to RussianRailways.com, is six days on the fastest train.

That underlines not only the distance from Moscow, but also Vladivostok’s location in the Asia Pacific — a little more than 300 miles from Harbin, China. It’s why the port city is the home to Russia’s Pacific Fleet—and has historically represented the Russian far east.

In 2012, Russia hosted the leaders meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum — holding the APEC gathering just outside Vladivostok. The city was also the setting for a meeting in 2002 between Kim Jong Un’s father and Vladimir Putin.

In the early 2000s, Russia was part of the so-called six-party talks that tried and failed to steer North Korea away from nuclear weapons.  The six countries involved then are still very much affected by developments on the Korean peninsula: North and South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.