North Korean Leader Visits Russia for Talks with Putin Amid Strained Relations with the West

by Ethan Kim
North Korea-Russia Summit

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia this Tuesday aboard a fortified train, setting the stage for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The summit comes at a time when both leaders find themselves increasingly isolated and in escalating conflicts with Western nations.

While Kim Jong Un is expected to solicit both economic assistance and advanced military technology for his economically beleaguered nation, he is also thought to offer Putin something the Russian leader urgently needs: munitions for Russia’s protracted conflict in Ukraine.

The engagement offers Kim Jong Un an opportunity to circumvent debilitating U.N. sanctions and years of diplomatic seclusion. Meanwhile, for Putin, it provides a chance to replenish dwindling munition supplies, significantly depleted due to the ongoing war.

Should Russia proceed with an arms deal with North Korea, it would be in breach of international sanctions, which Russia has previously endorsed.

Additional Context on North Korean-Russian Relations

Kim Jong Un’s personal train made its first stop at Khasan, a station on the Russia-North Korea border, where a military honor guard and brass band received him. North Korean state media reported that he was welcomed on a red carpet by regional Governor Oleg Kozhemyako and Minister of Natural Resources Alexander Kozlov.

Four years after his last visit to Russia and amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim emphasized that the trip underscores the strategic significance Pyongyang places on its relationship with Moscow, as stated by North Korea’s official news agency.

While many anticipated that the leaders would convene in Vladivostok, reports only confirmed Kim’s presence in Russia and that his train seemed to be moving away from the city. Speculation is rife that he might be heading towards Vostochny spaceport, which Putin is also expected to visit soon.

Delegations and Expected Outcomes

Kim Jong Un was accompanied by key ruling party, governmental, and military officials, indicating the topics that may be up for negotiation. Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will also be a part of the Russian delegation, suggesting the likelihood of military discussions.

Analysts suggest that North Korea’s stockpile of dated artillery based on Soviet designs could be an asset to the Russian military operations in Ukraine. Additionally, there may be talks on North Korea’s interest in advanced technologies such as spy satellites and nuclear ballistic missile submarines, although it remains uncertain whether Russia would share such sensitive information.

International Reactions

Lim Soo-suk, spokesperson for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, stressed that no U.N. member state should violate international sanctions by illegally trading arms with North Korea. The United States has also expressed concern about the potential for military collaboration between Russia and North Korea, particularly following a U.N. Security Council meeting initiated by Russia to discuss Western weapons supplies to Ukraine.

U.S. Concerns

U.S. authorities posit that Putin could be looking to secure additional North Korean artillery supplies to sustain a long-term conflict in Ukraine, thereby exerting more pressure on Western nations to come to the negotiation table.

Claims have been circulating that North Korea has been supplying Russia with artillery shells through the Wagner mercenary group, an allegation that both Russian and North Korean officials have refuted.

The talks between Putin and Kim Jong Un have heightened international attention, particularly since the Russian Defense Minister’s visit to North Korea in July, where Kim showcased intercontinental ballistic missiles aimed at the U.S. mainland. Following that visit, Kim took a tour of North Korean arms factories, possibly with the dual aim of modernizing domestic arsenals and identifying items for export to Russia.

Contributors: Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia; Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee in Washington; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations; Dake Kang and Ng Han Guan in Fangchuan, China; Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

For more comprehensive coverage, visit AP’s dedicated section.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about North Korea-Russia Summit

What is the primary purpose of Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia?

The primary purpose of Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia is to engage in talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Both leaders are currently facing escalating tensions with Western countries. It is speculated that discussions may cover economic aid for North Korea and military technology exchanges, including munitions that Russia needs for its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

Who are the key individuals accompanying Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin?

Kim Jong Un is accompanied by officials from North Korea’s ruling party, government, and military. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu is part of the Russian delegation. These key individuals hint at the topics that might be up for negotiation, which could include military and technological cooperation.

What international laws might be violated with this summit?

If Russia proceeds to enter into an arms deal with North Korea, it would violate United Nations sanctions, which Russia has previously supported. Such an agreement could have serious implications for international law and peacekeeping efforts.

Where did Kim Jong Un’s train first stop upon entering Russia?

Kim Jong Un’s train made its first stop at Khasan, a station on the Russia-North Korea border. He was received by a military honor guard and a brass band, and welcomed by regional Governor Oleg Kozhemyako and Minister of Natural Resources Alexander Kozlov.

How are international stakeholders reacting to this meeting?

International stakeholders are closely monitoring the situation. South Korea has emphasized that no United Nations member state should violate international sanctions by engaging in illegal arms trade with North Korea. The United States has also expressed concerns, particularly in the context of Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

What speculation exists about the meeting’s agenda?

There is speculation that the summit might involve discussions about North Korea’s aged artillery, which is based on Soviet designs and could be an asset to Russia’s military operations in Ukraine. Other topics could include North Korea’s interest in advanced technologies like spy satellites and nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

What does this meeting signify for the relations between Russia and North Korea?

The meeting signifies a drawing closer of Russia and North Korea, particularly as both countries find themselves increasingly isolated due to conflicts with Western nations. The summit is seen as strategically important for both nations and could redefine their international standing.

How is this meeting related to Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine?

Russia’s ongoing conflict in Ukraine has depleted its munitions supplies, and North Korea potentially has the artillery and munitions that Russia urgently needs. Therefore, the meeting may have direct implications for Russia’s military capabilities in the Ukraine conflict.

More about North Korea-Russia Summit

  • North Korea-Russia Relations
  • U.N. Sanctions Against North Korea
  • Russia’s Involvement in Ukraine
  • Previous Summits between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin
  • South Korea’s Stance on North Korean Sanctions
  • U.S. Concerns Over North Korean-Russian Cooperation
  • North Korea’s Military Technology
  • Russia’s Economic Forums and Diplomatic Engagements

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AnnaK September 13, 2023 - 12:10 am

Military technology exchange? That’s concerning on so many levels. The international community needs to pay attention, like ASAP.

TomW September 13, 2023 - 1:51 am

So Kim is using trains again, huh. A man of tradition, clearly. Wonder how much that “luxury, armored” ride cost his impoverished country.

JohnSmith September 13, 2023 - 4:29 am

Wow, didn’t see this coming. Kim and Putin meeting now? That’s something to watch out for, especially with both facing off against the West.

ChrisD September 13, 2023 - 12:02 pm

Why’s Kim making a foreign trip now after COVID? Seems like he’s desperate for some international support. Interesting timing to say the least.

SarahM September 13, 2023 - 3:11 pm

So now Russia is looking to N.Korea for help in Ukraine? That’s a slippery slope, violating UN sanctions and all. Dangerous moves, really.

MikeJ September 13, 2023 - 7:28 pm

what does this mean for us sanctions? Can’t believe Russia supported them in the past and now, they’re just willing to ignore it. Hypocrisy much?

EmilyR September 13, 2023 - 9:36 pm

The geopolitics of this is insane. If Russia and N.Korea get closer, it’s gonna change a lot of dynamics. Will be following this closely.


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