North Korean leader Kim Jong-un left Pyongyang on his armored train to meet Vladimir Putin in Russia.
Western intelligence agencies predict that the two will discuss North Korea’s supply of weapons and ammunition to support the Russian war machine in Ukraine. Moscow is expending thousands of artillery shells a day during its invasion and is struggling to meet demand. Tough sanctions imposed by Kyiv’s Western allies have forced Putin to turn to the few nations that openly support the 18-month-old invasion.
The Krelim noted that the visit “in the coming days” will include a formal lunch. “It will be a large-scale visit. A formal lunch is also planned,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
South Korean media, citing government sources, said the train had left the North Korean capital on Sunday night and that the summit would likely be held on Tuesday or Wednesday in Vladivostok, which is just 129 kilometers from the Russia-Korea border. from North.
The trip will be relatively slow due to the extreme weight of the armored train, with its characteristic olive green color. It is expected to travel the 1,099 km to Vladivostok in about 20 hours, traveling at a speed of about 60 km/h, with a long stop at the border to change wheels to fit the Russian railway tracks.
It will be Kim’s first overseas visit in more than four years, as the nation’s borders remained closed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Kim’s last overseas trip in 2019 was also to Vladivostok for his first summit with Putin.
The Pentagon reported that Kim was on his way. “We are planning some kind of meeting.” [y] “Based on the information we have been provided, KJU is traveling to Russia,” said Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Pat Ryder.
The Russian president plans to speak this week at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The day of Putin’s intervention is still unclear.
Residents of Vladivostok reported a larger than usual police presence on the streets. “Both countries show their teeth to the entire world and can take care of themselves. So there is something in common,” commented resident Fyodor, who did not give her last name.
Another resident, Svetlana, said: “He [Kim Jong-un] He is such a cryptic person that I don’t even know if he will come or not. But I think he should come: we are experiencing some changes, so what happens in Russia must be interesting for him.”
The Kremlin declared last week that Moscow intends to deepen its “relations of mutual respect” with Pyongyang, one of its close allies during the Cold War and also one of the few countries that supported Russia’s proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine. in 2022.
The United States said it would be a “big mistake” for North Korea to supply weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine and warned Pyongyang that it would “pay a price.”
According to analysts, North Korea possesses tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could provide a major boost to the Russian military.
In exchange, they speculate, Kim could get much-needed energy and food aid and advanced weapons technologies, including those related to intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable submarines and military reconnaissance satellites.
The concern is that potential Russian technology transfers will increase the threat posed by Kim’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles, designed to attack the United States, South Korea and Japan. However, some analysts say a possible meeting between Kim and Putin would have more to do with symbolic gains than substantial military cooperation.
Russia, which has always jealously guarded its most important weapons technologies, even from key allies like China, may be unwilling to make large technology transfers to North Korea for what are likely to be limited war supplies transported via a small link. railway between the countries, they indicate.
Sergei Shoigu, Russian Defense Minister, visited the North Korean capital in July, along with officials from China, Pyongyang’s largest trading partner. US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated that Shoigu had tried to “convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition” to Russia during the visit.
Putin and Kim are said to have exchanged letters following Shoigu’s visit, in which the North Korean leader showed weapons to the defense minister, including the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile. According to analysts at NK News, a site specializing in North Korea, the exhibition also included two new drone designs, including one similar to the main offensive attack drone used by the US Air Force.
Kirby claimed that the letters between Kim and Putin were “more superficial,” but the North Korean leader is known for sending effusive letters to other world leaders whom he considers allies, or at least useful. In June, Kim sent a message to Putin on Russia’s National Day, in which he stated that he would “shake hands” with the Russian leader and that the nation had the full support of the North Korean people.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Translation of Michelle Padilla