North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived at a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East on Wednesday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This meeting highlights the alignment of interests between the two leaders as they face separate confrontations with the United States. Putin welcomed Kim at the entrance to a launch vehicle assembly building and expressed his pleasure in seeing him. The two leaders will inspect the cosmodrome and then engage in talks.
Earlier on the same day, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles towards the sea, continuing its provocative weapons testing. Kim took advantage of the distraction caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine to accelerate his weapons development. For Putin, the meeting with Kim presents an opportunity to replenish drained ammunition stores amid the ongoing war. Meanwhile, Kim aims to overcome crippling U.N. sanctions and years of diplomatic isolation. It is expected that Kim will request economic aid and military technology, although an arms deal would violate international sanctions that Russia has supported.
The distance the North Korean missiles traveled has not been confirmed yet. Japan’s Coast Guard urged vessels to be cautious of falling objects. Kim’s personal train made a stop in Khasan, a station on the Russia-North Korea border, where he received a warm welcome. Kim emphasized the strategic importance of North Korea’s relations with Moscow, as demonstrated by his decision to visit Russia after four years. The Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, will be part of the Russian delegation.
Other officials in Kim’s delegation, such as Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui and top military officials, suggest what he might seek from Putin and what he may be willing to offer. Analysts speculate that North Korea possesses a large number of aging artillery shells and rockets that could be of interest to Russia. Kim may also request energy supplies and food. Russia has indicated that it may discuss humanitarian aid with the North Korean delegation.
South Korea is closely monitoring Kim’s visit and maintains communication with Moscow. They emphasize the importance of adherence to U.N. sanctions and warn against engaging in illegal arms trade or military cooperation with North Korea. The United States has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, but both countries deny the claims. Speculation about military cooperation between Russia and North Korea surfaced after the Russian defense minister’s visit to North Korea in July.