North Korea announced on Monday that its leader, Kim Jong Un, is set to visit Russia for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. Reports indicate that Kim’s armoured train is en route to the border.
Observers speculate that Putin may be pursuing artillery shells and antitank missiles from North Korea to support Moscow’s operations in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Kim is reportedly interested in acquiring advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, in addition to seeking food aid for his economically struggling nation.
Kim “will soon visit the Russian Federation at the invitation of… Putin,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said.
“The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un will meet and have a talk with Comrade Putin during the visit,” it added.
The Kremlin also confirmed Monday that Kim would visit Russia “in the coming days”.
Washington swiftly derided the upcoming summit as a sign that Putin was “begging” for help with his 18-month-long anti-Kyiv operations.
“The announcement puts an end to days of speculation, following recent statements by US and other officials to The New York Times suggesting that Kim, who infrequently ventures outside North Korea, was probably preparing to travel via an armoured train to Vladivostok for discussions with Putin.
Notably, Kim has refrained from international travel since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed official, stating, “Intelligence authorities believe the train presumed to be carrying Kim Jong-un is moving to Vladivostok”.
Broadcaster YTN said Seoul “expects that Chairman Kim will hold a meeting with President Putin of Russia around the day after tomorrow”, meaning Wednesday.
Moscow, a long-standing ally of Pyongyang, has played a pivotal role in supporting North Korea for over 75 years. Kim has remained unwavering in his backing of Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, with allegations from Washington suggesting the supply of rockets and missiles.
In July, Putin commended Pyongyang for its steadfast support of the Ukrainian military operations. Additionally, Vladivostok is currently hosting the Eastern Economic Forum until Wednesday.
AFP reported that the White House recently warned that Pyongyang would “pay a price” if it supplied Moscow with weaponry for its war in Ukraine.
On Monday, the United States described Putin as desperate over the conflict in seeking a meeting with Kim.
“Having to travel across the length of his own country to meet with an international pariah to ask for assistance in a war that he expected to win in the opening month, I would characterize it as him begging for assistance,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“President Putin launched this war against Ukraine, with its full-scale aggression, with a dream of restoring the glory of the Russian Empire. That hope, that expectation of his, has failed,” Miller said.
Washington has said Russia could use weapons from North Korea to attack Ukrainian food supplies and heating infrastructure heading into winter to “try to conquer territory that belongs to another sovereign nation”.
Miller renewed US warnings that a Moscow weapons deal with Pyongyang could trigger sanctions, noting that “any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would be in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.”