A diplomatic meeting that will be scrutinized by much of the world. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who left Pyongyang on Sunday aboard an armored train, arrived in Russia on Tuesday, where he is to discuss "sensitive issues" with Vladimir Putin in the coming days, according to the spokesperson. words from the Kremlin cited by the Russian agency Ria Novosti.
Kim Jong-un is due to speak with the Russian president during his first trip abroad since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The summit with Putin is to be held in the coming days somewhere in the Russian Far East. Moscow did not specify the date or location of the meeting.
Vladimir Putin is currently in Vladivostok, in the Littoral region, for an annual economic forum which ends on Wednesday. But the meeting must take place in another setting, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov.
Dmitri Peskov told Russian media that the two leaders would discuss “sensitive” subjects in particular without paying attention to “American warnings”.
Washington fears that Moscow will obtain weapons for its military operations in Ukraine from North Korea, itself under sanctions because of its nuclear and missile programs.
Kim Jong-un's train entered Russia and is traveling in the Russian Littoral region, bordering North Korea, according to Ria Novosti. Images from the Russian agency show the convoy of dark green wagons being pulled along a track by a Russian Railways locomotive.
According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, at least 20 hours are needed to connect Pyongyang and Vladivostok, a journey of 1,200 kilometers, assuming that Mr. Kim's special train - which is probably very heavy due to its armor - travels at a speed of approximately 60 km/h.
Kim Jong-un “left by train on Sunday afternoon to visit the Russian Federation,” the official North Korean agency KCNA announced on Tuesday. State media footage showed the leader walking to his train on a red carpet, and reviewing an honor guard at the station.
Dressed in a black suit and surrounded by his highest military officials in uniform, Kim Jong-un appeared with a serious face in these images, saluting from a door of the green and gold-colored train. Representatives of the Pyongyang authorities bid him a “warm farewell,” according to KCNA.
The North Korean leader, whose trips abroad are very rare, is accompanied by senior military officials, including his defense chief, his foreign minister and those responsible for arms production and security. space technology, according to official media.
According to experts, the meeting between Putin and Kim Jong-un could be about an arms deal, as Putin seeks to acquire shells and anti-tank missiles from North Korea.
For its part, Pyongyang is reportedly seeking cutting-edge technology for nuclear-powered satellites and submarines as well as food aid. Washington derided the meeting as a sign that Putin was “begging” for help in carrying out his operations in Ukraine.
Russia and North Korea have historic ties and Kim Jong-un has repeatedly expressed support to Moscow for its operations in Ukraine. Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Seoul's Kookmin University, said a Putin-Kim summit is part of Moscow's "friendly diplomatic blackmail" against Seoul because Russia does not want the South Koreans supply weapons to Ukraine.
South Korea is in fact a major exporter of military equipment and has sold tanks to Poland, an ally of kyiv. But its long-standing domestic policy prohibits it from supplying weapons to parties engaged in actual armed conflicts. “The main concern of the Russian government at the moment is a possible delivery of South Korean munitions to Ukraine, not just one delivery but many deliveries,” Andrei Lankov told Agence France-Presse.
Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, told Agence France-Presse that if North Korea increased military cooperation with Russia, “there would be an increased likelihood of protracted conflict in Ukraine ". While as a reward for helping Moscow, “the development of North Korea’s nuclear submarines and reconnaissance satellites could advance at a faster pace.”