Vladimir Putin has suggested the potential for military cooperation with Kim Jong Un during the North Korean leader’s ongoing visit to Russia. Their meeting, which included discussions about a suspected arms deal, took place at the Vostochny space center following Kim’s arrival in a private armored train.
Putin mentioned that they explored “possibilities” for military collaboration and hinted at assisting Pyongyang in developing satellites. The United States has expressed concerns, accusing Moscow of attempting to purchase weapons to support its actions in Ukraine. They’ve warned that any assistance Russia provides to North Korea’s satellite program would violate UN Security Council resolutions.
Furthermore, Putin has accepted an invitation from Kim to visit North Korea, a rare occurrence given the isolation of the North Korean regime. This meeting occurred at a time when both Russia and North Korea have strained relations with Western nations.
Kim Jong Un received a warm welcome from Putin, and the two leaders were seen shaking hands and touring the space center together. Putin invoked historical ties between the Soviet Union and North Korea, stating that “an old friend is better than two new ones.”
Regarding North Korea’s satellite program, Putin indicated their intention to discuss it further, and when asked about a potential weapons deal, he mentioned that they would discuss all topics.
Interestingly, Kim expressed support for Putin’s actions in Ukraine, portraying Russia as defending its sovereignty against Western hegemonic forces. He pledged solidarity with Russia in the fight against imperialism.
Kim’s visit to Russia includes overseeing a display of Russian warships, visiting factories, and stopping in Vladivostok on his way back to North Korea, although the duration of his stay is unknown.
Earlier this year, North Korea attempted to launch a spy satellite twice but failed. While North Korea claims it aims to enhance military surveillance, the US suspects that it is also trying to improve its ballistic missile capabilities, given the technological similarities.
The US State Department expressed concerns that Russian assistance with satellite technology could bolster North Korea’s missile program, potentially violating UN resolutions.
However, Putin acknowledged certain limitations to military cooperation and downplayed the US warnings, emphasizing the importance of Russia’s and North Korea’s interests.
Kim’s trip to Russia marks his first foreign visit since 2019, and it comes after a Russian delegation visited North Korea in July, where Kim showcased Pyongyang’s missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Both countries have mutual interests in arms trade due to compatibility with Russian weapon systems, particularly artillery. Pyongyang may provide artillery, ammunition, and older missile types. Some experts believe that North Korea’s arms could temporarily aid Russia’s war effort while it faces ammunition shortages.
In return, Kim may seek food aid for his struggling nation, which has been severely affected by sanctions and border closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. North Korea may also request advanced submarine and ballistic technology from Russia, although Putin might be cautious about providing such capabilities.
This meeting raises questions about the effectiveness of sanctions on Russia and North Korea. Some experts argue that international sanctions have inadvertently pushed these nations closer together, creating a “firewall” against further punishment. However, there are risks for Pyongyang if evidence emerges that its weapons were used by Russia in Ukraine, potentially triggering additional sanctions and international condemnation.