North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is reportedly planning a visit to Russia this month for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, according to a US official cited by CBS, a BBC partner. The agenda for this meeting is believed to revolve around the possibility of North Korea providing Moscow with weaponry to support its involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The exact location of the planned meeting remains uncertain, and as of now, there has been no official response or comment from North Korea or Russia regarding this report. Sources close to the situation have suggested that Kim Jong Un may choose to travel to Russia using an armored train.
This potential diplomatic encounter comes on the heels of statements from the White House indicating that arms negotiations between North Korea and Russia have been progressing actively. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby disclosed that during a recent visit to North Korea, Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, had attempted to persuade Pyongyang to supply artillery ammunition to Russia.
Notably, this visit showcased a display of weapons, including the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile, believed to be North Korea’s first ICBM utilizing solid propellants. This event marked the first time Kim Jong Un had welcomed foreign dignitaries since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Subsequently, Kim and Putin exchanged letters reaffirming their commitment to enhancing bilateral cooperation.
Nevertheless, the United States has expressed its concern and urged North Korea to cease its arms negotiations with Russia, reminding Pyongyang of its public commitments to refrain from providing or selling arms to Russia. Mr. Kirby warned that the US might take punitive actions, including imposing sanctions, if North Korea proceeds to supply weapons to Russia.
This situation raises apprehension in both Washington and Seoul, with questions about what North Korea stands to gain in return for such an arrangement. Such a deal could potentially lead to increased military collaboration between these two Asian nations. Additionally, there are concerns that Russia might provide advanced weapons technology or knowledge to North Korea, potentially facilitating advancements in its nuclear weapons program.
However, it’s essential to consider that this prospective agreement could be driven more by immediate needs than long-term strategy. At present, Russia requires weaponry, while North Korea, grappling with sanctions, is in dire need of financial resources and food.
Recent reports suggest that the Kim-Putin meeting may take place in Vladivostok, a port city on Russia’s east coast. According to diplomatic correspondent Edward Wong of The New York Times, an advance team of North Korean officials visited Vladivostok and Moscow late last month, including security officers responsible for leadership protocol, signaling significant preparations for the potential meeting.
Both Pyongyang and Moscow have previously denied North Korea’s involvement in supplying arms to Russia for use in the Ukraine conflict.
John Everard, a former UK ambassador to North Korea, expressed skepticism about the meeting’s likelihood due to heightened concerns over Kim Jong Un’s personal security. Additionally, he noted that North Korea’s stockpiled weapons, though potentially valuable to Russia, are in poor condition.
The last meeting between the two leaders occurred in April 2019 when Kim Jong Un arrived in Vladivostok by train, receiving traditional greetings of bread and salt. This meeting coincided with discussions regarding security guarantees for Kim Jong Un in exchange for denuclearization, following the failed summit in Vietnam between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump.