Kim Jong Un crosses Russian border for talks with Putin
Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, has arrived in Russia via rail, where he is scheduled to hold a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. According to North Korea’s state media, Mr. Kim departed from Pyongyang on his private train on Sunday.
The exact location of their meeting remains undisclosed, as Mr. Kim’s train is reportedly moving northward, away from the city of Vladivostok.
A US official has indicated that their discussions are expected to encompass an arms deal, given Russia’s current confrontation with a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
The Kremlin has characterized this as a “fully-fledged visit,” with discussions set to encompass “bilateral relations, the regional situation, and global affairs.”
Although the meeting could potentially occur as early as Tuesday local time, the Kremlin’s statement suggests it might take place in the “coming days.”
Mr. Kim disembarked from his train upon its arrival at the border station of Khasan on Tuesday morning. Video footage captures the moment as he steps onto a red carpet, warmly greeted by a Russian delegation and a playing brass band.
During this visit, Mr. Kim also held discussions with Alexander Kozlov, Russia’s minister for natural resources. Oleg Kozhemyako, a regional governor, released footage of their meeting, which reportedly included talks about the possible launch of joint tourism and agricultural projects later this year.
Mr. Kim’s train is rumored to include at least 20 heavy bulletproof carriages. The extra weight means the train is very slow – it can only travel at around 37mph (59 km/h).
The North Korean leader’s last trip abroad was to Vladivostok in 2019 for a summit with Mr Putin after the collapse of nuclear disarmament talks with the then-US president, Donald Trump.
The Vostochny Cosmodrome, located in Russia’s far east near the border with China, has been suggested as the possible meeting place for the two leaders.
It is the country’s first commercial space center and is one of Mr. Putin’s pet projects.
The Russian president has announced he plans to go to the cosmodrome but has not confirmed that Mr Kim will meet him there. Responding to a question at the Eastern Economic Forum, Mr. Putin said: “When I get there, you will know”.
North Korea may seek cooperation from Russia on its space programme, which late last month failed a for second time to place a spy satellite in orbit after a rocket failure.
The White House said it had new information that negotiations between Russia and North Korea were on a weapons deal “actively advancing”.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had tried to “convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition” to Russia during a recent visit to North Korea.
Both sides have denied the reports.
The US and its allies have expressed concern over the possibility of closer military ties between Russia and North Korea.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would always act in its national interest.
“The interests of our two countries are important to us, and not warnings from Washington,” he was quoted as saying by Russian media.
North Korea also wants food aid and possibly technology to help its banned nuclear and missile program, analysts say.