North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is expected to visit Vladivostok to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks about supplying weapons for the latter’s war in Ukraine, U.S. officials have told the New York Times.
Kim will likely travel from Pyongyang by armored train to the port city, located on the Pacific coast of Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, for his meeting with Putin, according to the officials. It would mark his first trip abroad in over four years.
Their meeting, which U.S. officials expect will take place sometime between Sept. 10 and 13 at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, is likely to follow the North’s scheduled paramilitary parade on Sept. 9 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the regime’s founding.
While it remains unclear what kind of deal the two leaders are seeking, Putin is expected to ask for North Korean artillery shells and missiles to fuel Russia’s war machine in Ukraine, while Kim could seek advanced technology for nuclear-powered submarines and satellites, which are both items on his previously announced wish list of sophisticated military hardware that his regime has yet to successfully develop.
According to White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday, high-level talks on military cooperation between the two countries are “actively advancing.”
Kim and Putin exchanged letters pledging to increase their bilateral cooperation after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to North Korea last month to attend a military parade celebrating the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Kirby said that Shoigu tried to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Moscow.
During his visit, Shoigu was also guided through a display of the North’s most advanced weapons by Kim himself.
The U.S. government has warned North Korea and Russia to not increase arms cooperation.
“We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia,” Kirby said, referring to the North by the acronym for its official name, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
He also warned the United States could take action such as additional sanctions if North Korea supplied Russia with weapons.
Increased military cooperation between North Korea and Russia would provide ample cause for concern in both Seoul and Washington, who are likely to pay particular attention to what Pyongyang may gain from such a deal.
The North could seek long-term strategic gains from an agreement with Russia, such as advanced technology, or goods such as food and oil to fulfill its more immediate needs.
Reports from battlefields in Ukraine indicate that North Korean artillery shells are already being used by Russian forces, despite denials by the North that it is supplying Russia with weapons for use in its war in Ukraine.
On Monday, South Korea’s intelligence service told lawmakers that Shoigu had suggested that Russia, China and North Korea hold joint naval drills, similar to those carried out by the United States, South Korea and Japan.
In an interview with Russian state news agency TASS on Saturday, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora said that the North could be invited to joint military exercises by Russia and China but added that he did not know of any ongoing preparations for Pyongyang’s inclusion.
Kim and Putin last met in April 2019, when the North Korean leader travelled by train to Vladivostok on what is believed to have been his last trip abroad.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]