North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has arrived in Russia, according to what was confirmed by Russian and international media.
The Kremlin said that the North Korean leader will meet with President Vladimir Putin to discuss a number of “sensitive issues.”
Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov confirmed in the early hours of Tuesday morning that the armored train carrying Kim Jong Un had crossed the border into Russian territory.
Peskov did not specify where Kim’s talks would be held, but he said that the negotiations would be held in the presence of delegations from Russia and North Korea and individually in the far east of Russia.
He added that there will be an official banquet in Kim’s honor, but no press conferences are scheduled.
The Kremlin had announced that the meeting between the two leaders would be held “in the coming days,” after the conclusion of the Eastern Economic Forum.
Kim is accompanied by a delegation of senior military officials. The two countries are expected to finalize an arms deal through which Pyongyang could supply Moscow with weapons needed for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
North Korea, in turn, may receive the humanitarian aid the country needs because of the sanctions imposed on it.
North Korea is facing serious shortages of basic goods – from food to medicine – after the government closed its borders in 2020 to keep out the coronavirus.
Analysts say Kim is looking to obtain these vital supplies from Russia in exchange for sending weapons to Moscow.
This would also help Pyongyang’s efforts to diversify its international trade, for which it relies on China.
Washington has warned North Korea more than once against helping Russia with armaments.
In response, the Kremlin said that Russia was “not interested” in Washington’s warnings, and would instead focus on the interests of Pyongyang and Moscow.
What weapons might Pyongyang provide to Moscow?
.’ Yona Ko and Derek Kay say North Korea, which is one of the most heavily armed countries in the world, could supply Russia with raw munitions, as Russia needs many of them in its war with Ukraine.
Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, told the BBC that Pyongyang may supply Russia with bullets, missiles and even old missiles.
The country possesses tens of millions of artillery shells and missiles, according to some estimates. Analysts believe there could be a good stock because North Korea has not fought a war since the Korean War ended in 1953.
Professor Kim said that handing over these old munitions to Russia would not undermine North Korea’s defense capabilities.
Because North Korea relies largely on Soviet weapons systems for its firearms, this makes North Korean munitions largely compatible with the Russian arsenal.
Russian Defense Minister Shoigu visited North Korea in July of this year and assessed its weapons.
Analysts believe Shoigu’s trip laid the groundwork for Kim’s visit to Russia and for any potential arms sale.
A group of North Korean military officials also visited Vladivostok before heading to Moscow, according to what the New York Times reported, and that trip, which lasted 10 days, may have been planning for Kim Jong Un’s visit.
Putin and Kim’s message to Washington
BBC correspondent Jean Mackenzie in Seoul says that the more the Russian and North Korean leaders are immersed in problems, the more they realize that they need each other.
The United States believes the two countries are set to finalize an arms deal through which North Korea will supply Russia with ammunition and artillery.
While Vladimir Putin needs weapons to fuel his war in Ukraine, Kim needs money, oil and food to support his regime, which is suffering from sanctions.
In exchange for sending ammunition and artillery to the front lines, it is believed Kim could also ask Russia to hand over advanced weapons technology, which would allow him to make progress on his nuclear weapons programme.
The two leaders are sending a strong political message that they plan to support each other in the future.
Regardless of whether this is true or not, their planned meeting is undoubtedly aimed at warning Washington against exaggerating its support for Ukraine.