North Korea says leader Kim Jong Un returned home after a trip to Russia where he deepened “camaraderie and friendly ties” with President Vladimir Putin.
ByHYUNG-JIN KIM Associated Press
September 19, 2023, 12:33 a.m.
Seoul, South Korea — North Korea said Tuesday that leader Kim Jong Un had returned home after a trip to Russia where he deepened “camaraderie and friendly ties” with President Vladimir Putin.
During Kim’s six-day trip to Russia, his longest overseas trip as leader, the two countries said they discussed strengthening defense ties but did not disclose any specific measures . Foreign experts believe the two countries, both engaged in confrontations with the West, were seeking arms transfer deals in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Korea’s official news agency said Kim’s train crossed a border river Monday morning, but did not say whether it was heading toward the capital, Pyongyang, or elsewhere in the country. Before heading to Russia, Kim made several visits to its munitions factories, sparking speculation that he intended to check on production of weapons destined for Russia.
During a trip across Russia’s far east, Kim met with Putin at Russia’s most important space launch center before visiting military sites to see some of Russia’s most advanced weapons systems, such as nuclear-capable bombers, fighter jets and hypersonic missiles.
In live comments during their meeting last Wednesday, Kim offered “full and unconditional support” for Putin. KCNA later said Kim and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also met and discussed expanding “strategic and tactical coordination” between the two countries’ armed forces.
Many outside experts say Kim would provide munitions to replenish Russian stockpiles depleted in the second year of the war in Ukraine, in exchange for Russian technology to modernize its nuclear weapons arsenals. U.S. and South Korean officials have warned that Russia and North Korea will face consequences if they enter into such arms transfer deals in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Other experts say Kim would eventually receive food and economic aid because Russia is reluctant to share its sensitive and high-tech weapons technologies with other countries.
Kim has made strong efforts to strengthen his nuclear arsenal, citing what he called intensifying U.S. military threats. Analysts say Kim would seek to use his expanded arsenal to extract greater concessions from the United States, while strengthening his military credentials at home in the face of economic woes worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.