North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took the train from Pyongyang on Sunday September 10 to travel to Russia, where he is scheduled to meet President Vladimir Putin, the KCNA news agency announced Tuesday. He is accompanied by a delegation of senior officials from the government, the armed forces and North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, the official media wrote.
Experts say the trip to Vladivostok, in Russia's far east, where an annual economic forum is held, could be about an arms deal. Mr. Putin is reportedly seeking to obtain North Korean weapons and ammunition for Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.
North Korea, for its part, would seek to obtain advanced technologies from Russia for its satellite and submarine program.
KCNA did not say where Mr. Kim's train was Tuesday, including whether or not he had already crossed the border into Russia, but South Korean media said Tuesday morning that he had arrived in Russia .
Denial from Kremlin spokesperson
On Monday, the state agency announced that “respected Comrade Kim Jong-un will meet and hold discussions with Comrade Putin during his visit.” Moscow had also confirmed this planned visit, the North Korean leader's second to Russia since coming to power in 2012.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov, however, assured Monday, before the official announcement of the trip, that no Kim-Putin meeting was planned as part of the Vladivostok economic forum.
The White House said on September 5 that Kim Jong-un wanted to see Vladimir Putin to discuss arms sales. The Russian president, forced to "cross his entire country to meet a pariah on the international scene in order to ask him for help in a war he hoped to win in a month", is thus reduced to "begging" from the North Korean leader, criticized the US State Department on Monday.
Kim Jong-un had not left North Korea since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Kim Jong-il, father and predecessor of the current North Korean number one, was afraid of taking the 'plane. His son also favors rail for his rare trips abroad.