North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Tuesday ahead of his meeting with President Vladimir Putin. The conference might end in an arms sale to support Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, the US has warned.
According to photos released by North Korean official media, an unflinching Kim waved from the doors of his heavily armoured private train as it departed Pyongyang on Sunday evening. This was his first journey outside of North Korea since the crisis.
Kim Jong Un to meet Putin
Kim and Putin will meet this week at an unknown location in the Far East of Russia, according to Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin. Putin is currently in Vladivostok, the Far Eastern city closest to the North Korean border, for the Eastern Economic Forum, despite their being no indication that the two internationally isolated sides will hold their talks there.
Experts predict that Moscow would demand anti-tank missiles and artillery rounds from North Korea in exchange for advanced satellite and nuclear submarine technology. The White House warned last week that North Korea would “pay a price” if it gave Russia weapons for the conflict in Ukraine.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim departed North Korea for Russia on Sunday in spite of the warnings. He was accompanied by senior military personnel from North Korea, including those in charge of developing weapons and space technologies.
Peskov stated that the two leaders would “cooperate on sensitive areas that should not be the subject of public disclosure and announcements”.
Kim was given a “warm send-off” replete with a red carpet and honour guard at Pyongyang station at around 18h38 (09h38 GMT), according to KCNA pictures.
The Russian state news agency Ria Novosti published images of the train’s dark green carriages being pulled by a Russian Railways locomotive along a track, claiming that Kim had crossed the border on Tuesday.
North Korea and Russia: Steadfast Allies
Observers claim that Kim is travelling to Russia with his top military officials, including Director Jo Chun Ryong of the Munitions Industry Department and Marshal Pak Jong Chon of the Korean People’s Army.
Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister for Moscow, visited Pyongyang in July. He recently suggested that bilateral naval drills be conducted in cooperation.
Washington claims that Kim has continuously supported Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, including by supplying rockets and missiles.
But even though Russia has been rapidly exhausting its vast arsenal of weaponry ever since it started its invasion of Ukraine at the beginning of last year, neither Moscow nor Pyongyang have recognized that North Korea has or will provide it with weapons. Kim hasn’t left North Korea since the coronavirus outbreak started.
Russia ‘begging’ for help
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Seoul’s Ewha University, claims that while Moscow has satellite, ballistic, and submarine technologies that could assist Pyongyang in overcoming engineering obstacles brought on by economic sanctions, North Korea has the subpar ammunition that Putin needs for his illegal war in Ukraine.
The United States characterised Putin’s efforts to meet with Kim as desperate on Monday.
According to Matthew Miller, a spokeswoman for the State Department, “I would characterise it as him pleading for help.” To meet with a global outcast and request help in a war that he anticipated winning in the first month, he had to travel the length of his own nation.
I’ll remind both nations that any transfer of weapons from North Korea to Russia would be against many resolutions of the UN Security Council, he continued.
Washington has issued a warning that as winter approaches, Russia may attack Ukrainian heating and food infrastructure using weapons acquired from North Korea in an effort to “conquer territory that belongs to another sovereign nation.”
A Putin-Kim summit was a part of Moscow’s “gentle diplomatic blackmail” of Seoul, according to Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, who spoke to AFP. The reason for this was that Russia did not want South Korea to give Kiev any weapons.
Despite being a big supplier of weapons and having given tanks to Poland, a country that supports Kiev, Seoul is not allowed to contribute weaponry to the ongoing hostilities due to a long-standing domestic policy. According to Lankov, the Russian government is currently particularly worried about a prospective delivery of South Korean weapons to Ukraine, maybe in several batches.