North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed his belief that Russia would achieve a significant victory against its adversaries. Kim conveyed this message to Putin during an intimate dinner in Moscow.
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on Wednesday, September 13, 2023, where they discussed military issues, the war in Ukraine, and the possibility of Russian assistance for the secretive communist state’s satellite program.
Putin invited Kim to tour Russia’s most advanced space rocket launch facility in the Russian Far East and discussed the potential for sending North Korean cosmonauts into space. Kim, who arrived by train from North Korea, asked detailed questions about the rockets as Putin took him around the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Following the tour, Putin and Kim held discussions for several hours with their ministers and later discussed global affairs and potential face-to-face cooperation, followed by a luxurious lunch.
Kim raised a toast with a glass of Russian wine to Putin’s health, the victory of “Great Russia,” and the friendship between Korea and Russia, predicting Moscow’s triumph in the “sacred struggle” against the West in the Ukraine war.
“Russian soldiers and people will undoubtedly achieve a great victory in the sacred struggle to punish the great crimes that claim hegemony and nurture expansionist illusions,” Kim said, raising his glass, as reported by Reuters on Thursday, September 14, 2023.
US and South Korean officials have expressed concerns that Kim might provide weapons and ammunition to Russia, which has depleted its weapon supplies during over 18 months of warfare in Ukraine. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied such intentions.
Putin dropped hints that military cooperation had been discussed but revealed few details. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attended the talks. The Kremlin stated that sensitive discussions between neighbors were a private matter.
When asked by Russian media if Moscow would assist Kim in building a satellite, Putin replied, “That’s why we came here.”
Washington warned that it would impose further sanctions on any weapons transfer between countries, and claimed Putin was “pleading” for Kim’s assistance after losing tens of thousands of soldiers in Ukraine.
“We have taken a number of actions to sanction entities that act as intermediaries in arms sales between North Korea and Russia, and we will not hesitate to impose additional sanctions if necessary,” said US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller in a briefing.
He called it “disruptive” if Russia discussed cooperation with North Korea on programs potentially violating UN Security Council resolutions.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hinted that Moscow must proceed with caution.
“Any form of cooperation of any country with North Korea must respect the sanctions regime imposed by the Security Council,” Guterres told reporters, adding that it was “highly relevant” in the case of Russia and North Korea.
For Russia, this summit was an opportunity to challenge the United States, a supporter of Ukraine, although it remained unclear how far Putin was willing to go to fulfill North Korea’s technological demands.
Putin stated that Kim now plans to visit a military and civilian aviation plant in the Russian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and inspect the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will visit Pyongyang for further talks next month.
Putin and Kim referred to each other as “comrades” during lunch, and Putin repeatedly reminded Kim that the Soviet Union had supported North Korea and was the first country to recognize it 75 years ago.
Amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which has escalated into a fierce artillery skirmish, the United States and other Kyiv allies were watching whether Kim’s visit would pave the way for artillery ammunition supplies to Russia.
Britain urged North Korea to end weapons negotiations with Russia and stated that Kim’s visit highlighted Moscow’s isolation on the world stage.
However, Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, told Radio NV Ukraine that North Korea had been supplying weapons to Russia for over a month.
Russia has joined China in opposing new sanctions on North Korea, blocking US-led efforts and openly breaking the Security Council for the first time since it began punishing Pyongyang in 2006.
When asked about military cooperation, Putin said Russia adhered to international rules but left room for exploration.
Choosing to meet at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a symbol of Russia’s space ambitions, was crucial, as North Korea had failed to launch spy satellites twice in the past four months.
After taking Kim around the Angara assembly building, Russia’s new 42.7-meter space launch rocket, Putin said Kim had shown “great interest in rocket technology” during the visit.
Before his meeting with Putin, Kim signed the visitor’s book in Korean, saying, “Glory to Russia, which gave birth to the first conqueror of outer space, will be eternal.”
While Kim was traveling through the Russian countryside by train, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from an area near its capital, Pyongyang, into its eastern offshore waters.
Analysts said this was the first missile launch by North Korea while Kim was abroad, indicating an increased level of delegation and better control systems for the country’s nuclear and missile programs.
Kim had previously made only seven overseas trips in his 12 years in power, all in 2018 and 2019. He had also crossed the inter-Korean border twice.
Kim’s delegation to Russia, including the presence of Director of the Ammunition Industry Department Jo Chun Ryong, suggested an agenda emphasizing defense industry cooperation.
“In Korea, there is a saying: good clothes are new clothes, but old friends are the best friends. And our people say: an old friend is better than two new ones,” Putin told Kim.
“This wisdom of the people can be fully applied to modern relations between our countries.”