Russia’s Putin to visit North Korea for the first time in 24 years

Russian president to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a state visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Kremlin says.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un during a meeting at the Vostochny Сosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region, Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during Kim's visit to Russia's Far East in September 2023 [Vladimir Smirnov/Pool via Reuters]

Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to arrive in North Korea later on Tuesday, in his first visit in 24 years, underlining the deepening ties between the two nuclear-armed states.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un extended an invitation to Putin when Kim visited Russia’s east in September for the first talks between the two men since 2019.

“At the invitation of the Chairman of State Affairs of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin will pay a friendly state visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on June 18-19,” the Kremlin said on Monday, using North Korea’s official name.

North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, also announced the visit but offered no further details.

Putin last visited Pyongyang in July 2000, four months after he was first elected president. He met the country’s then-leader, Kim Jong Il, Kim’s father.

In a letter published in Tuesday’s edition of the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Putin said the two countries had developed good relations and partnerships over the past 70 years based on equality, mutual respect and trust.

“We will develop alternative mechanisms of trade and mutual settlements that are not controlled by the West, and jointly resist illegitimate unilateral restrictions,” Putin wrote. “And at the same time – we will build an architecture of equal and indivisible security in Eurasia.”

He thanked North Korea for supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine and promised to support Pyongyang to defend its interests against what he called “US pressure, blackmail and military threats”.

‘Axis of transactionalism’

There are growing concerns that Pyongyang is providing Moscow with badly needed munitions for the war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers to fuel the military modernisation programme?Kim has been pursuing in recent years.

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South Korea and the United States discussed the impending visit last week and expressed concerns about the implications for regional security of the two countries’ closer ties.

“For Kim Jong-un, this visit is a victory,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said in emailed comments. “Not only does the summit upgrade North Korea’s status among countries standing against the U.S.-led international order, it also helps bolster Kim’s domestic legitimacy.

“Russia cannot replace China economically, but increasing cooperation with Moscow shows that Pyongyang has options. For now at least, Putin’s war in Ukraine sets up an ‘axis of transactionalism’ among sanctions violators looking to trade yesterday’s weapons for today’s military technology.”

Two months after his Russia trip, North Korea announced it had successfully put a spy satellite into orbit after two previous efforts ended in failure.

Fragments of North Korean missiles have also been found in Ukraine.

Any weapons trade with North Korea would be a breach of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions on North Korea over its nuclear weapons programme, which Russia, a permanent member of the council, previously endorsed. The two countries have denied arms transfers.

Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea at Kookmin University in Seoul, told The Associated Press news agency that in exchange for providing artillery munitions and short-range ballistic missiles, Pyongyang was hoping to get more sophisticated weapons from Moscow.

Lankov added that while Russia could be reluctant to share its state-of-the-art military technologies with North Korea, it was eager to get munitions from Pyongyang.

“There is never enough ammunition in a war. There is a great demand for them,” he said.

In recent months, Russia has been going out of its way to publicise the renaissance of its relationship with North Korea since the start of the war in Ukraine, causing alarm among the US and its allies in Europe and Asia.

Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the two countries could sign a partnership agreement during the visit that would include security issues.

He said the deal would not be directed against any other country but would “outline prospects for further cooperation, and will be signed taking into account what has happened between our countries in recent years – in the field of international politics, in the field of economics … including, of course, taking into account security issues”.

Russian Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak will join Putin on the trip.

The key meetings are due to take place on Wednesday, and satellite imagery suggests?North Korea appeared to have been making preparations for a military parade in the centre of Pyongyang.

Putin will travel on to Vietnam after concluding his visit to Pyongyang.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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