North Korea’s Kim is in Russia to meet Putin, as both are locked in standoffs with the West

by Michael Nguyen
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Geopolitical Meeting

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia via an armored train on Tuesday for a significant meeting with President Vladimir Putin. This unusual encounter between isolated leaders has been driven by their shared need for support in escalating standoffs with Western nations.

Kim’s primary objectives during this meeting are expected to include seeking economic aid and military technology for his impoverished country. Notably, there is an unusual twist to this meeting: Putin appears to require munitions for Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which Kim may be able to provide.

This rendezvous represents a crucial opportunity for the North Korean leader to circumvent crippling U.N. sanctions and years of diplomatic isolation. For Putin, it’s a chance to replenish ammunition stores that have been depleted due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. It’s worth noting that any arms deal with North Korea would violate previous sanctions that Russia had supported.

North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency confirmed Kim’s departure aboard his personal train, which took place on Sunday afternoon. His final destination remains uncertain, although many had anticipated a meeting in Vladivostok, where the two leaders last met in 2019. However, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has only confirmed that Kim has entered Russia, and it was later reported that his train had headed north, away from Vladivostok.

Some Russian news outlets speculate that Kim might be headed for the Vostochny spaceport, which Putin is scheduled to visit. However, the exact route and duration of Kim’s slow-moving train journey to this facility are unclear.

Peskov has stated that Putin and Kim will meet after the Vladivostok forum, including a lunch in Kim’s honor.

Officials identified in North Korean state media photos offer insights into what Kim might seek from Putin and what he may be willing to provide. These individuals include Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official responsible for munitions policies, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who will be part of the Russian delegation.

North Korea possesses aging artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs, which could potentially bolster the Russian army in Ukraine. Additionally, photos indicate the presence of individuals linked to North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines. Such capabilities would likely require external assistance, although it’s uncertain whether Russia would share such sensitive technologies.

Kim may also seek energy and food supplies for his nation, and humanitarian aid discussions could be on the table during the meeting.

Kim’s delegation likely includes his foreign minister, Choe Sun Hui, and his top two military officials, Korean People’s Army Marshals Ri Pyong Chol and Pak Jong Chon.

This marks Kim’s first foreign trip since the pandemic, during which North Korea enforced tight border controls for over three years. Russia and North Korea have grown closer in recent times, particularly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The international community, including the United States, is closely monitoring this meeting. Concerns have been raised about potential arms discussions between Russia and North Korea, as any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Japan is also watching closely, particularly regarding the impact on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The United States has previously accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, and it has emphasized that any such transfer would result in new sanctions.

In summary, the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin holds significant implications for both North Korea and Russia, as well as regional and international dynamics. It represents a unique convergence of interests between two leaders facing challenges from the West, but the outcomes and consequences of their discussions remain uncertain.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Geopolitical Meeting

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

Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia serves several purposes. He is seeking economic aid and military technology for North Korea, which is grappling with economic challenges. Additionally, this meeting provides an opportunity for Kim to bypass crippling U.N. sanctions and diplomatic isolation. For Putin, the meeting offers a chance to obtain munitions for Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

What potential benefits could Russia gain from this meeting?

Russia could potentially benefit from this meeting by obtaining munitions for its war in Ukraine. North Korea’s aging artillery shells and rockets, based on Soviet designs, could provide valuable support to the Russian military. Furthermore, Russia may discuss acquiring sensitive technologies related to spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines.

Are there concerns about sanctions violations in this meeting?

Yes, there are concerns about potential violations of sanctions. Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would violate previous U.N. sanctions, which Russia had previously supported. This raises international concerns about the potential repercussions of such violations.

What is the significance of Kim Jong Un’s travel method?

Kim Jong Un’s use of an armored train for international travel is a traditional method for North Korean leaders. These luxury trains are symbolic of North Korea’s isolation and have been used for decades. This mode of travel is significant as it underscores the unique diplomatic circumstances surrounding North Korea.

How has the pandemic affected North Korea’s international travel?

The COVID-19 pandemic led North Korea to enforce tight border controls for over three years, restricting international travel. Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia marks his first foreign trip since the pandemic, highlighting the reopening of international interactions for North Korea.

What are the concerns raised by the United States and Japan regarding this meeting?

The United States and Japan have expressed concerns about potential arms transfers between North Korea and Russia. Such transfers would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and could have implications for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Both nations have emphasized their intention to monitor the meeting closely and impose sanctions if necessary.

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