Kim Jong-un arrived in Russia’s Far East on his armored train earlier this week and is currently continuing his visit to the region. The North Korean leader met with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday at the Vostok Cosmodrome, and delegations from both countries held lengthy talks. The Kremlin states that no agreements were signed.
This statement marks the first official communication since Russia confirmed Kim Jong-un’s visit, although it remains somewhat reserved, reports our correspondent in Moscow, Anissa El Jabri. There is no official declaration; only a few brief words from Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, as reported by Russian media: “No agreements were signed, and this was not expected.”
As is customary in Russia, caution is advised when interpreting such statements. On Friday morning, Russian television extensively covered the exchanges between Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin. Lukashenko mentioned seeing Kim Jong-un at the Vostok Cosmodrome and expressed the possibility of cooperation between the three leaders. These comments were made in Sochi, around 10,000 kilometers away from Russia’s Far East, where Kim Jong-un is conducting his extraordinary visit. The North Korean leader has not left his country since 2019.
Accompanied by Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for Industry, Denis Manturov, Kim Jong-un visited several aerospace factories on Friday, where he observed the production of civil and military transport aircraft and witnessed flight demonstrations of the Sukhoi-25 fighter jet. Kim Jong-un also plans to attend a military “demonstration” by the Russian Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok, further stoking Western concerns.
On Thursday, the White House also reported that National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had discussed the Putin-Kim Jong-un meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. They emphasized that any arms exports would directly violate several United Nations Security Council resolutions.
The Yuri Gagarin factory, visited by Kim Jong-un on Friday, symbolizes one of the shortcomings of the North Korean military. This facility assembles the SU-35 and SU-57, Russia’s most advanced fighter aircraft. In contrast, North Korea’s fleet mainly consists of old, poorly maintained aircraft, hindering the regime’s pilots’ regular training. In recent years, North Korea has initiated the reconstruction of numerous airbases, signaling its intent to enhance its aviation capabilities.
A similar story applies to the upcoming inspection of the Russian naval base in Vladivostok. This visit coincides with Kim’s aspirations to revitalize the North Korean navy and his recent presentation of a new submarine. Nevertheless, acquiring more modern vessels is necessary to close the gap with South Korea’s state-of-the-art fleet.
These potential arms purchases from Russia may run counter to Moscow’s official stance, as would any possible ammunition deliveries from North Korea. This week, the South Korean presidency claimed that Russia was already using North Korean weapons in Ukraine, potentially violating UN sanctions.