South Korean President Moon Jae-in headed to Russia on Thursday for a summit with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin that will focus on ways to boost the countries' economic cooperation, as well as on joint efforts to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
The South Korean leader is making a three-day state visit that will also include a meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, according to his office Cheong Wa Dae. Moon is the first South Korean president to make a state visit to Russia since 1999.
During his trip, President Moon will deliver a special speech at the State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia.
President Moon Jae-in and his wife, Kim Jung-sook, wave before boarding Air Force One to embark on a three-day state visit to Russia on Thursday. (Yonhap)
It will be the first time that a South Korean leader has addressed the Russian parliament, Cheong Wa Dae said.
The Moon-Putin summit will be held Friday. It will mark the third meeting between the two leaders since Moon took office in May 2017. The two first met in September, when Moon attended the annual Eastern Economic Forum held in the Russian city of Vladivostok.
"President Moon's Russia visit ... will mark an important milestone in efforts to establish a strategic partnership between South Korea and Russia while also strengthening the friendship and trust between the two leaders," Nam Gwan-pyo, a director of the National Security Office, said earlier.
"Also, the visit is expected to help promote strategic cooperation between the two countries to establish peace in Northeast Asia amid positive developments in security conditions and efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula," he added.
Moon's Russia trip follows his two historic summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, held April 27 and May 26. It also follows Kim's meeting with US President Donald Trump in Singapore last week.
"Russia has been making significant contributions in efforts to denuclearize North Korea while it has also played a significant role in pressuring the North, considering its economic relationship with North Korea," a Cheong Wa Dae official said on condition of anonymity.
Russian officials have said both Moon and Kim have been invited to this year's Eastern Economic Forum, which could set them up for what would be their third bilateral summit, should they both attend.
On Saturday, the South Korean president will head to Russia's southeastern city of Rostov-on-Don, where he will watch a FIFA World Cup match between his country and Mexico.
He will head back home later in the day. (Yonhap)