North Korea leader Kim Jong Un arrives in Russia to meet Vladimir Putin to discuss arms for Ukraine war
Vladimir Putin is desperate to seal a deal for military supplies from North Korea to help his failed invasion of Ukraine.
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Kim’s armoured luxury train crossed into Khasan Station, the main rail gateway to Russia’s Far East, early on Tuesday (12 September), according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency. It is his first trip abroad since before the coronavirus pandemic.
In exchange, Kim could ask for urgently needed food and energy aid for his country’s struggling economy, but also advanced weapons technologies - including those related to intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines, and military reconnaissance satellites.
There are concerns that this would increase the threat posed by Kim’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles.
Officials in the US were the first to report that North Korea and Russia were arranging a meeting between their leaders, releasing the intelligence last week. Washington has since warned of consequences if North Korea were to supply arms to Russia.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed these warnings however, commenting on Tuesday (12 September): “As you know, while implementing our relations with our neighbours, including North Korea, the interests of our two countries are important to us, and not warnings from Washington. It is the interests of our two countries that we will focus on.”
He added that the meeting will consist of “negotiations between the two delegations”, followed by, “if necessary”, the leaders continuing their discussions in a “one-on-one format.”
Previously, Peskov emphasised that Moscow cherishes its ties with Pyongyang, explaining: “North Korea is our neighbour, and we will further develop our relations without looking back at other countries’ opinion.”
Alexander Gabuev, head of the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre, said: “We know that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has visited recently, for artillery shells predominantly, and most likely that will be discussed between Putin and Kim Jong Un.”
Shoigu became the first Russian defence chief to visit North Korea since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Images of him at a massive military parade in the capital of Pyongyang in July, alongside Kim and the medal-laden North Korean military brass, was a strong sign of a vigorous effort by Moscow to reach out to the North.
Kim made his first visit to Russia in 2019 and held talks with Putin that included pledges of closer co-operation but were not followed by any visible breakthroughs. While the bulk of the Korean People’s Army arsenals are dated, their enormous size would offer the Russian military a potential key lifeline amid the disastrous Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification, said Russia could seek to establish North Korea as a “rear base” for its war efforts, providing a massive flow of munitions. “Russia is hoping that North Korea could swiftly establish support channels to provide it with war materials like ammunition, bombs and other supplies,” he said.