Russia’s Putin to visit North Korea for the first time in 24 years

Russia’s Putin to visit North Korea for the first time in 24 years

Russian president to embark on state visit on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Kremlin says.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit North Korea this week for the first time in 24 years, the two countries say, a rare trip that underscores Moscow’s burgeoning partnership with the nuclear-armed state.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un extended an invitation to Putin when Kim visited Russia’s Far East in September.

“At the invitation of the Chairman of State Affairs of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin will pay a friendly state visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on June 18-19,” the Kremlin said on Monday.

North Korea’s state news agency, KCNA, also announced the visit but offered no further details.

Putin last visited Pyongyang in July 2000, four months after he was first elected president. He met with Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled the country then.

Moscow has said it “highly appreciates” Pyongyang’s support for Russia’s military action in Ukraine and mentioned its “close and fruitful cooperation” at the United Nations and other international organisations.

There are growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Putin’s war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programmes.

During a telephone call with South Korea’s vice foreign minister on Friday, United States Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell raised concerns that Putin’s visit to North Korea would result in further military cooperation between the two countries that would potentially undermine stability in the region, Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Military, economic and other cooperation between North Korea and Russia have sharply increased ever since Kim’s visit to the Russian Far East for a meeting with Putin, their first since 2019.

Any weapons trade with North Korea would be a violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions that Russia, a permanent council member, previously endorsed.

Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea at Kookmin University in Seoul, told The Associated Press news agency that in exchange for providing artillery munitions and short-range ballistic missiles, Pyongyang hopes to get higher-end weapons from Moscow.

Lankov added that while Russia could be reluctant to share its state-of-the-art military technologies with North Korea, it would be eager to receive munitions from Pyongyang.

“There is never enough ammunition in a war. There is a great demand for them,” he said.

In recent months, Russia has been going out of its way to publicise the renaissance of its relationship with North Korea since the start of the war in Ukraine, causing alarm among the US and its allies in Europe and Asia.

For Putin, who has said Russia is locked in an existential battle with the West over Ukraine, courting Kim allows him to needle Washington and its Asian allies.

Besides North Korea, Putin will also visit Vietnam on Wednesday and Thursday.

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