Russian foreign minister meets Kim Jong Un, calls for lifting of sanctions

Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pose during a meeting in Pyongyang, Thursday, May 31, 2018.

(CNN)Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a trip to Pyongyang Thursday, as Moscow steps up efforts to increase its influence in the region ahead of proposed talks between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with his North Korean counterpart Ri Yong Ho, Lavrov called for the phased lifting of sanctions on North Korea, suggesting that denuclearization would only be achievable if sanctions were scaled back.
"As we start discussions on how to resolve the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula, it is understood that the solution cannot be comprehensive without the lifting of sanctions," Lavrov said according to state news agency Sputnik.
    Lavrov's comments are likely to be met with frustration in Washington, where efforts are underway to convince North Korea to begin the process of nuclear disarmament ahead of the on-again off-again summit, tentatively scheduled for June 12.
    The Trump administration has long maintained that the lifting of sanctions is dependent on the North's willingness to begin the process of full denuclearization. The success of the policy, known as the "maximum pressure campaign" remains dependent on the support of the international community, including Russia.
    On Wednesday, Senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York, their third meeting this year, as the two sides attempt to finalize their summit preconditions.