North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is making a rare foreign visit this week, as he tours several military and civilian locations in Russia’s Far East.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who met with the guest on Wednesday, has touted opportunities for cooperation that are there for the two nations, despite sanctions imposed on Pyongyang by the UN.
Here’s how the first day of Kim’s visit went.
Talks at cosmodrome
Kim arrived in Russia in his personal train, a mode of transportation that both his father and grandfather used when they led North Korea. His first major destination was the Vostochny Cosmodrome, an advanced space-launch facility in the Amur Region.
Putin met Kim on site and accompanied him on a tour of the facility. Footage showed the North Korean leader asking follow-up questions about the capabilities of the site of his guide Nikolay Nestechuk, who was recently appointed chief of ground infrastructure for the Russian space program.
Two rounds of bilateral talks followed on site, first between delegations of the two nations and then face-to-face between Putin and Kim.
- Pyongyang’s unwavering support
During his greetings ahead of the negotiations, Kim expressed his nation’s unwavering support of Russia against what he called “hegemonic forces” and “imperialism.”
Moscow has accused the US and its allies of waging a “proxy war” against Russia through economic sanctions, coercion and military action in Ukraine. North Korea has been facing Western pressure for decades.
Pyongyang and Moscow were allied during the 1950s civil war on the Korean Peninsula, in which the US was the primary foreign military supporter of Seoul.
Officials in Washington have been claiming for months that Moscow has sought to procure weapons and munitions from the extensive North Korean stockpiles, to use them in the Ukraine conflict.
- The accusation escalated in July when Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited North Korea.
- If Pyongyang were to help Moscow with arms, it would “not reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan threatened last week.
The UN Security Council, which includes Russia as a permanent member, has imposed sanctions that ban arms trade with North Korea. Putin has given an assurance that Moscow was observing existing restrictions.
“But there are things that we certainly can consider,” he added, speaking to the Russian media after meeting Kim. “We have opportunities within the rules that are in place.”
The North Korean leader is yet to travel to other parts of Russia, including Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Vladivostok, his host told journalists. Considering the extensive program, “it’s too early to evaluate the results” of the visit, Putin suggested, describing the contacts so far as “productive.”
The Russian Defense Ministry will be showcasing the capabilities of the Russian Pacific Fleet, the president said. Kim’s other stops relate to environmental issues and education.
- “We have many interesting projects,” Putin promised, naming as one example the plan to develop Russian railroad connectivity through North Korea.