Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for their first talks on Thursday. It was an opportunity for Russia to demonstrate it can potentially have influence over North Korea’s nuclear program — and to show what an excellent host it can be.
Oleg Kozhemyako, governor of the Primorye region of Russia, remarked the day before the summit that he trusted Kim would feel welcome in Russia’s Far East. “People of Primorye have always welcomed their neighbors,” he said.
Kim was made to feel welcome, and not only by the people of Primorye. Putin is notoriously late in meeting with world leaders and has kept German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Trump and even Queen Elizabeth II and Pope Francis waiting. For Kim, however, he was not just on time — he was 30 minutes early.
One observer told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, “Putin seems to be committed to his role as a host, although the protocol overall appears to have been arranged in a rush.”
And then there was the lavish-looking meal.
As for what was served: “All kinds of specialties of Russian cuisine will be available. They wanted to taste our food. . . . There will be a wide choice. Most likely, they’ll be offered our borscht and dumplings. . . . I have no doubt caviar will be on the table, too,” Kozhemyako predicted on Wednesday.
And, indeed, borscht was on the dinner menu, as was venison, dumplings, crab salad, cod fillet with dill sauce, and Khabarovsk beef with baked eggplant.
There were also two types of wine and caramel apple and chocolate cake, but those are somehow less associated with Russia in the public imagination than borscht and dill.
Kim was also being treated to caviar and a visit to a bread factory.
According to Interfax, a Russian new agency, the two leaders also got to enjoy performances by the Kuban Cossack song-and-dance ensemble and the choir of the Russian National Guard’s song-and-dance ensemble, among other groups, and listened to such Russian classics as “Ochi Chyornye” (Dark Eyes) and “Swan Lake” ballet’s “Dance of the Little Swans.”
Putin’s hospitality also included listening to a performance of the Korean song “Great Commander.”
Amie Ferris-Rotman in Moscow contributed to this report.