Russian President Vladimir Putin met North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East for a meeting that underscores how the two leaders’ interests are aligning in the face of their separate, intensifying confrontations with the United States.
After Kim arrived by limousine — brought in his armoured train from Pyongyang — Putin shook hands with him and said he was “very glad to see” him. Russian state media quoted Kim as thanking Putin for the invitation to visit Russia “despite being busy.”
The two leaders will inspect the cosmodrome and then sit down for talks, Russian state media reported.
Hours earlier, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the sea, extending a highly provocative run in North Korean weapons testing since the start of 2022, as Kim used the distraction caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine to accelerate his weapons development.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff didn’t immediately say how far the North Korean missiles flew. Japan’s Coast Guard, citing Tokyo’s Defence Ministry, said the missiles have likely already landed but still urged vessels to watch for falling objects.
For Putin, the meeting with Kim is seen as an opportunity to refill ammunition stores that the 18-month-old war has drained. For Kim, it's a chance to get around crippling UN sanctions and years of diplomatic isolation.
Kim is expected to seek economic aid and military technology, though an arms deal would violate international sanctions that Russia supported in the past.
Kim said his decision to visit Russia four years after his previous visit showed how Pyongyang is “prioritising the strategic importance” of its relations with Moscow, North Korea's official news agency said Wednesday.
Putin has been attending an economic forum this week in Vladivostok, a Russian city close to the border where the two leaders had their last meeting.
The United States has accused North Korea of providing Russia with arms, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials denied such claims.