Kim Jong Un Meets Putin in Russia Amid Growing Tensions with the West


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Tuesday for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, raising concerns about a potential arms deal for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. Kim’s delegation includes his foreign minister and top military officials who are in charge of nuclear-capable weapons and munitions factories.

Kim is making his first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic, during which North Korea imposed tight border controls for more than three years. He boarded his personal train on Sunday afternoon from Pyongyang, accompanied by unspecified members of the country’s ruling party, government and military. South Korea’s military assessed the train crossed into Russia sometime early Tuesday.

Kim Jong Un Meets Putin in Russia Amid Growing Tensions with the West
Kim Jong Un Meets Putin in Russia Amid Growing Tensions with the West

Kim and Putin may meet in the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, where Putin arrived Monday to attend an international forum that runs through Wednesday. Putin’s first meeting with Kim was held in 2019 in the city, which is about 425 miles (680 kilometres) north of Pyongyang.

Kim is expected to seek Russian economic aid and military technology in exchange for munitions to be used in Russia’s war in Ukraine, analysts say. North Korea may have tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could give a huge boost to the Russian army in Ukraine.

Russia and North Korea seek closer ties amid isolation from the international community

The meeting between Kim and Putin comes amid growing tensions between North Korea and the West over the former’s nuclear and missile programs. North Korea has conducted several ballistic missile tests this year, defying U.N. Security Council resolutions and drawing sanctions and condemnation from the U.S. and its allies.

Russia, meanwhile, has faced international isolation and pressure over its invasion of Ukraine, which has sparked a humanitarian crisis and a diplomatic standoff with the West. Russia has also been accused of interfering in elections, cyberattacks, human rights violations and other malign activities around the world.

The U.S. ambassador in Seoul, Philip Goldberg, said on Tuesday that North Korea and Russia appear to have sought closer military ties because they were increasingly isolated from the international community and have difficulty in gaining access to supplies due to global sanctions.

“They’re both isolated states, without ability to really access anything in the world due to sanctions and their own activities,” he said. “So I think that you have to see the Russia-North Korea connection in that light, as opposed to a trilateral forming with China.”

China’s role in the region remains unclear amid shifting alliances

China, North Korea’s longtime ally and main trading partner, has not commented on Kim’s visit to Russia or his potential arms deal with Putin. China has its own interests, regardless of what might have been described as an unlimited friendship with Russia at one point, Goldberg said.

China has been more restrained, especially with regard to Ukraine, where it has maintained a neutral stance and called for dialogue and de-escalation. China has also been engaged in negotiations with the U.S. over trade, climate change and other issues of mutual concern.

However, China has also shown signs of frustration with North Korea’s provocative actions and lack of progress on denuclearization. China has supported some U.N. sanctions on North Korea and has urged it to return to dialogue with the U.S. and other parties.

China may also be wary of North Korea’s growing dependence on Russia, which could undermine its influence and leverage over its neighbor. China may also be concerned about North Korea’s pursuit of advanced weapons technologies, such as spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines, that could pose a threat to regional stability.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here