SEOUL – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will soon visit Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin, the two countries confirmed on Monday, after United States officials said the pair would discuss possible arms deals.
Mr Kim will visit Russia in the coming days at the invitation of Mr Putin, the Kremlin said, while North Korean state news agency KCNA said the two would “meet and have a talk”, without elaborating.
Mr Kim appeared to have taken a special train bound for Russia, South Korean broadcaster YTN reported on Monday, citing an unnamed senior government source.
YTN reported that the special train would take Mr Kim to North Korea’s north-eastern border with Russia, and the summit was likely to be on Tuesday, though it initially reported that it would be held on Wednesday.
Earlier on Monday, Russian news agency Interfax reported that Mr Kim was expected to visit Russia’s Far East region “in the coming days”.
The Kremlin said last Saturday that Mr Putin would be in the far eastern city of Vladivostok to attend the Eastern Economic Forum, which opened on Sunday, but said it had “nothing to say” about a possible visit by Mr Kim.
The Japanese media reported that security was being stepped up, and refurbishment was taking place at the main train station in the Russian border city of Khasan, where Mr Kim is expected to enter Russia.
The trip would be Mr Kim’s first visit abroad in more than four years, and the first since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
North Korea is one of the few countries to have openly supported Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and Mr Putin pledged last week to “expand bilateral ties in all respects in a planned way by pooling efforts”.
Mr Kim’s last trip abroad in 2019 was also to Vladivostok, for his first summit with Mr Putin, after the collapse of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament talks with former US president Donald Trump.
A summit between Mr Kim and Mr Putin would most likely focus on military cooperation and possibly a deal to supply arms, US and South Korean officials and analysts have said.
Analysts say North Korea has huge supplies of artillery shells, rockets and small-arms ammunition that could help Russia replenish the vast stocks it has expended in more than 18 months of war in Ukraine.
In return, Russia could offer grain, oil and military technology, as Mr Kim looks to develop capabilities such as nuclear-powered submarines and military reconnaissance satellites.
The US has said it would be a “huge mistake” for North Korea to supply Russia with weapons to use in Ukraine and warned that Pyongyang would “pay a price”.
The US has said talks for North Korea to supply more weapons to Russia are advancing actively despite repeated denials from Pyongyang and Moscow.
The US and South Korea have expressed concern over the possibility of greater military cooperation between the North and Russia and a potential arms deal.
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