Russia and North Korea Discuss Potential Weapons Exchange

Kim Jong-un and Putin to Meet in Russia for Diplomatic Talks
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Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, is set to visit Russia this month to meet with President Vladimir V. Putin. They plan to discuss the possibility of supplying Russia with more weaponry for its involvement in the Ukraine conflict and explore other military cooperation, say American and allied officials.

Mr. Kim, who rarely leaves North Korea, is expected to travel from the capital, Pyongyang, likely by armored train, to Vladivostok, a city on Russia’s Pacific Coast, where he will meet with President Putin.

President Putin has expressed interest in acquiring artillery shells and antitank missiles from North Korea, while Mr. Kim is interested in obtaining advanced satellite technology and nuclear-powered submarines from Russia. Additionally, North Korea seeks food aid for its struggling nation.

Both leaders will be attending the Eastern Economic Forum, which is scheduled for September 10 to 13, at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok. Mr. Kim also plans to visit Pier 33, where naval ships from Russia’s Pacific fleet dock, in honor of North Korea’s founding anniversary on September 9.

The White House recently warned that Mr. Putin and Mr. Kim had exchanged letters discussing a possible arms deal, signaling active progress in their military cooperation talks. U.S. officials refrained from providing further details about their personal ties, as both leaders are considered adversaries of the United States.

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The United States has previously declassified intelligence to discourage North Korea and other countries from supplying Russia with weapons for its conflict in Ukraine.

In late August, a delegation of around 20 North Korean officials, including security protocol overseers, traveled by train from Pyongyang to Vladivostok, then flew to Moscow. This indicated North Korea’s seriousness about Mr. Kim’s upcoming visit.

Mr. Kim may also visit Vostochny Cosmodrome, a space launch center located about 950 miles north of Vladivostok, and Moscow.

The idea for the visit originated from Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu’s trip to North Korea in July, where he celebrated North Korea’s 70th anniversary of the “victory” over South Korean and U.S. forces in the Korean War.

Mr. Kim’s exchange with Mr. Shoigu included discussions about greater military cooperation and Mr. Putin visiting North Korea, leading to Mr. Kim’s upcoming trip. This visit is significant, as it marks the first time a Russian defense minister visited North Korea since the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.

While the exact details of their conversation were not disclosed, Mr. Kim emphasized mutual concerns related to safeguarding sovereignty and international justice.

This strengthening of the Russia-North Korea alliance aligns with both countries’ strategic interests, given their limited allies and a common adversary in the United States, as noted by Jean H. Lee, a former senior fellow at the Wilson Center.

China also engaged with North Korea during its celebration, with a delegation led by Li Hongzhong, a member of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party, delivering a letter from China’s leader, Xi Jinping.

Mr. Kim often exchanges letters with foreign leaders whom he considers allies or potential partners. His historic face-to-face summits with President Donald J. Trump were preceded by a series of such letters.

Mr. Kim’s upcoming visit to Russia carries historical significance, reminiscent of his previous visit in 2019, where he arrived in Vladivostok via his armored train to meet with Mr. Putin.

The United States first warned about cooperation between North Korea and Russia regarding artillery shells for use in Ukraine a year ago. However, disclosures of declassified U.S. intelligence discouraged North Korea from delivering weapons to the conflict in Ukraine.

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