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PoliticsNorth Korea

North Korea's Kim meets Russia's Shoigu in Vladivostok

September 16, 2023

The North Korean leader met with the Russian Defense Minister and inspected a hypersonic aircraft missile system before boarding a warship. Kim's Russia trip has sparked concerns among Western nations.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un and Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu inspect the guard of honor at Knevichi Aerodrome near Vladivostok.
Kim arrived in Russia on TuesdayImage: Russian Defence Ministry/Handout/REUTERS

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Vladivostok on Saturday accompanied by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and inspected a hypersonic aircraft missile system before boarding a warship, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Kim's first official trip abroad since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered concerns among Western nations that Moscow and Pyongyang might engage in arms trade despite existing sanctions.

There is speculation that Moscow may be interested in procuring North Korean ammunition for the conflict in Ukraine, while Pyongyang seeks Russia's assistance in advancing its missile program.

Is North Korea bolstering Russia's military?

What was on Kim's itinerary?

Upon arriving in Vladivostok, which is near the Chinese and Russian borders, Kim received a warm welcome from Shoigu and an honor guard, reported TASS.

At the Knevichi airfield, Shoigu showed Kim "the Kinzhal missile system on the MiG-31I missile carrier," whose "flight and technical capabilities" were outlined to Kim by a top military official said TASS.

The itinerary was also expected to include visits to Russia's Pacific Fleet, the Far Eastern Federal University, and marine biology laboratories at the Russian Academy of Sciences, which has historically accepted students from North Korea. 

Kim's tour of Russia's far eastern region began on Tuesday. He met with President Vladimir Putin and visited a fighter jet factory in the engineering hub of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

Following their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, approximately 8,000 kilometers from Moscow on Wednesday, Putin expressed optimism about increased cooperation with North Korea, including the possibility of military ties.

Both North Korea and Russia are subject to extensive international sanctions, due to the Ukraine conflict and Pyongyang's nuclear tests respectively.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov clarified on Friday that no agreements had been finalized during Kim's ongoing visit, and there were no plans to do so.

During their meeting, Putin accepted an invitation to visit North Korea, according to the Kremlin. He also reportedly offered to send a North Korean individual into space, which would be a historic first.

Moscow also raised the possibility of assisting North Korea in satellite manufacturing.

The cooperation discussed during Kim's visit to Russia has raised concerns as it may potentially violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, according to US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Miller pointed out that North Korean satellites have played a role in the development of Pyongyang's ballistic missiles, noting that North Korea recently experienced two failed attempts to launch a military spy satellite into orbit.

tg/mm (AFP, Reuters)