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PoliticsNorth Korea

Putin arrives in North Korea for first visit in 24 years

Published June 18, 2024last updated June 18, 2024

Russia's president is on a two-day trip to North Korea, his first in 24 years. He'll hold talks with Kim Jong Un, and most of his senior Cabinet members are part of the delegation.

Putin's face on a banner in Pyongyang
Russia is seeking to deepen ties with North KoreaImage: Kristina Kormilitsyna/SNA/IMAGO

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea on Wednesday for a two-day visit, the first in 24 years, as he seeks closer relations with leader Kim Jong Un.

"Vladimir Putin has landed in Pyongyang, the capital of the DPRK [North Korea]," the Kremlin said.

A US Pentagon spokesperson expressed concern over the visit shortly after Putin's arrival. "The deepening cooperation between Russia and the DPRK is something that should be of concern, especially to anyone that's interested in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," Major General Patrick Ryder told reporters.

Putin arrives in North Korea for state visit

Putin thanks Kim ahead of visit

Putin thanked North Korea for its support of his invasion of Ukraine and said that the two countries would cooperate closely to overcome Western sanctions.

The comments were part of an op-ed piece printed in North Korean state media on Tuesday morning, soon before Putin was expected to arrive in Pyongyang for a summit with the North Korean leader.

"We highly appreciate that the DPRK [North Korea] is firmly supporting the special military operations of Russia being conducted in Ukraine," Putin wrote in the article carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). 

He said that the two countries were "now actively developing the many-sided partnership," for example maintaining Moscow and North Korea's "common line and stand at the UN." 

Putin wrote that the two countries would also seek deeper ties in tourism, culture and education.

Pyongyang International Airport
Putin touched down in Pyongyang early on WednesdayImage: Kristina Kormilitsyna/SNA/IMAGO

He also said the countries would continue to "resolutely" fight against what he described as Western attempts to "to hinder the establishment of a multipolarized world order based on mutual respect for justice."

First visit to North Korea since 2000

The Russian president's only previous visit to North Korea came shortly after he first assumed power, back in July 2000. At that point, Kim Jong Un's father Kim Jong Il was in charge and the country had barely emerged from years of serious famine in the 1990s. 

But Kim Jong Un visited Russia last year on a fairly rare overseas trip, during which he and Putin emphasized the potential for collaboration in areas like space technology. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un pass a honor guards officer during their meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, Thursday, April 25, 2019.
Kim also visited Vladivostock in Russia's far east in April 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, amid which he further curtailed his already rare foreign travelImage: Shamil Zhumatov/Pool Photo/AP Photo/picture alliance

With Russia increasingly isolated by international sanctions, and this status the norm for North Korea for decades now, the two historical allies have had more incentive to cooperate in recent years. 

South Korea, the US and Ukraine have all alleged that North Korea is shipping weapons to Russia, in violation of UN sanctions, in return for technical help with its nascent satellite program. Russia and North Korea have denied this, with Pyongyang calling the notion "absurd." 

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller repeated the charge on Monday ahead of the trip, saying North Korea had provided "dozens of ballistic missiles and over 11,000 containers of munitions to Russia" for use in Ukraine.

Senior Russian delegation in tow 

Accompanying Putin in the delegation are relatively new Defense Minister Andrei Beluosov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as the head of the Russian space agency and railways and the ministers for natural resources, health, transport, in addition to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, Putin's point man for energy policy. 

Commercial satellite imagery taken in the run-up to Putin's arrival showed potential indications of preparations for some kind of military parade in downtown Pyongyang. 

zc,msh/jsi,ab (AFP, AP, Reuters)