Ukraine war: Kim Jong Un ‘to visit Putin for weapons talks’

September 4, 2023  –North Korea’s Kim Jong Un plans to travel to Russia this month to meet President Vladimir Putin, a US official has told the BBC’s US partner CBS.

The two leaders will discuss the possibility of North Korea providing Moscow with weapons to support its war in Ukraine, the official said.

The exact location of the planned meeting is not clear.

There was no immediate comment on the report, also carried by other US media, from North Korea or Russia.

Sources told the New York Times that Mr Kim was most likely to travel by armored train.

The possible meeting comes after the White House said it had new information that arms negotiations between the two countries were “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.

Weapons on display at the meeting included the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It was the first time Mr Kim had opened the country’s doors to foreign guests since the Covid pandemic.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu

Mr Putin and Mr Kim have since exchanged letters “pledging to increase their bilateral co-operation”, he said.

“We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia,” Mr Kirby said, using an abbreviation for the North.

He warned that the US would take action, including imposing sanctions, if North Korea did supply Russia with weapons.

According to the New York Times, the meeting between Mr Kim and Mr Putin could take place in the city of Vladivostok, on the east coast of Russia.

The newspaper’s diplomatic correspondent, Edward Wong, told BBC News channel that an advance team of North Korean officials had travelled to Vladivostok and Moscow late last month.

They “included security officers who deal with the protocol surrounding travel of the leadership, so that was a strong sign for officials looking at this”, Wong said.

North Korea, he added, might be seeking “advanced technology” from Moscow to assist with its satellite and nuclear-powered submarine programs.

“Also North Korea is one of the poorest countries in the world,” the New York Times journalist said. “It often goes through bouts of mass hunger and it is seeking food aid from Russia too.”

Pyongyang and Moscow have both previously denied that the North is supplying Russia with arms for use in its war in Ukraine.

John Everard, who served as UK ambassador to North Korea between 2006 and 2008, told the BBC that publicity around the possible visit was a “strong reason why the visit is now unlikely to take place”.

“Kim Jong Un is completely paranoid about his personal security. He goes to great lengths to keep his movements secret and if it’s known that he’s planning to go to Vladivostok to meet President Putin, he’s likely just to cancel the whole thing,” he said.

Pyongyang knows that Moscow is “desperate” for munitions and the price that North Korea will ask for them will be “eye-wateringly high”, he added.

While North Korea has stockpiles of weapons “they’re in very poor condition”, he added.

The two leaders last had a summit in 2019 when Mr Kim arrived by train in Vladivostok. He was welcomed by officials with a traditional offering of bread and salt.

After the meeting, Mr Putin said Mr Kim would require “security guarantees” in order to abandon his nuclear programme.

Their meeting came just months after a summit in Vietnam between Mr Kim and then-US President Donald Trump had failed to make progress on denuclearising the Korean peninsula.

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