North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, has reportedly commenced his journey to Vladivostok for a summit with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin. This significant development marks Mr. Kim’s first international trip in over four years, and it comes amid ongoing arms negotiations between the two countries.
The departure of Mr. Kim was signaled by the departure of his armoured train from Pyongyang, according to South Korean media, citing a government official. The meeting between the two leaders is anticipated to occur as early as Tuesday local time.
The Kremlin has officially confirmed Mr. Kim’s impending visit to Russia “in the coming days,” adding to the anticipation surrounding this diplomatic encounter.
The Pentagon, a top defense authority in the United States, has acknowledged Mr. Kim’s journey to Russia and anticipates “some type of meeting,” as reported by the BBC’s US partner, CBS News.
One of the primary topics likely to be discussed during this summit is the possibility of North Korea providing Moscow with weaponry to support Russia’s involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A US official previously informed CBS of this likelihood, highlighting the importance of this diplomatic engagement.
Mr. Kim’s last international trip was also to Vladivostok in 2019 when he held his inaugural summit with President Putin. This occurred following the collapse of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament talks with then-US President Donald Trump.
The unique nature of Mr. Kim’s travel arrangements has attracted attention. His armored train, rumored to include at least 20 bulletproof cars, exceeds the typical weight of trains and cannot surpass speeds of 59 km/h (37 mph). As a result, his journey to Vladivostok is expected to consume an entire day.
This summit emerges following recent statements from the White House, indicating that arms negotiations between North Korea and Russia were “actively advancing.” The National Security Council’s spokesman, John Kirby, disclosed that Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, had sought to persuade Pyongyang to supply artillery ammunition to Russia during a recent visit to North Korea.
The timing of this summit is significant, as both Russia and North Korea possess items that are of interest to the other party. Ankit Panda from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace explained that the crucial factor now is whether both sides can agree on suitable prices for the assistance they seek from one another.
Russia is expected to request conventional arms, including artillery shells and rocket artillery munitions, in exchange for food, raw materials, and continued support in international forums like the United Nations. This could potentially lead to North Korea transferring more advanced weaponry to Russia to replenish Moscow’s stocks of conventional arms.
While Russia may require 122mm and 152mm shells due to diminishing stocks, North Korea’s secretive nature makes it challenging to determine the full extent of its artillery inventory.
During a meeting in July between Mr. Kim and Mr. Shoigu, a display of weapons included the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), believed to be North Korea’s first ICBM utilizing solid propellants. This meeting marked the first time Mr. Kim had opened North Korea’s doors to foreign guests since the onset of the Covid pandemic.
As anticipation builds for this high-stakes summit, the world awaits the outcomes and potential agreements that could emerge from the meeting between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin.