The Kremlin has confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will be visiting Russia in the coming days, accepting an invitation from President Vladimir Putin. This development has raised concerns in the West regarding a potential arms deal between Pyongyang and Moscow for use in the conflict in Ukraine.
South Korean media reported that an armored train carrying Kim has left Pyongyang, bound for Russia via North Korea’s northeastern border. The meeting is anticipated to be held in the Russian port city of Vladivostok as early as Tuesday.
The Kremlin stated, “At the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Chairman of State Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Jong-un, will pay an official visit to the Russian Federation in the coming days.” Meanwhile, North Korean state news agency KCNA mentioned that the two leaders would “meet and have a talk,” providing no further details.
This visit marks Kim’s first venture abroad in over four years and his initial trip since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last week, the White House revealed intelligence suggesting Russia’s interest in procuring additional artillery shells from North Korea to bolster its defense industry.
US officials also announced plans for a meeting between the two leaders, slated for later this month. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan warned that North Korea will face consequences for supplying weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine.
Previously, the US, Britain, South Korea, and Japan have all stated that any arms transaction between North Korea and Russia would be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
The potential meeting between Kim and Putin might occur at the Eastern Economic Forum, an annual conference running until September 13th on the campus of the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.
On Monday, the Kremlin announced Putin’s arrival in Vladivostok for a two-day visit to the forum.
Kim and Putin, who first met in 2019, are reportedly seeking increased military and economic cooperation to counterbalance their escalating international isolation, brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs.
In July, Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, journeyed to Pyongyang and visited a defense exhibition showcasing the country’s banned ballistic missiles.
Experts believe North Korea possesses a substantial arsenal of artillery shells, rockets, and small arms ammunition, which could aid Russia in replenishing their military supplies depleted over 18 months of conflict in Ukraine. In exchange, Moscow might share advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines.