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Kim and Putin meet at Russian spaceport for possible arms talks

Kim and Putin meet at Russian spaceport for possible arms talks

Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin met at a Russian spaceport, fueling Western concerns that North Korea may provide military support to Russia’s war in Ukraine.


Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin met at a Russian spaceport Wednesday in a rare encounter that has fueled Western concerns the North Korean leader will provide military support for the Russian president’s war in Ukraine.

Video posted by Russian state media showed the two leaders smiling and shaking hands as Kim arrived at the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s far eastern Amur region, a day after he arrived in the country from North Korea.

The two men met at the entrance to a launch vehicle assembly building, where Putin said he was “happy to see” Kim and the North Korean leader thanked his host for having invited him to visit Russia “despite being busy.”

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Kim offered Putin his country's "full and unconditional support" for what he called Russia's "sacred fight" to defend its security interests — an apparent reference to his invasion of Ukraine — and vowed they "will always be together with Russia in the fight against imperialism."

After they inspected the spaceport, they held talks between their delegations and then had a one-on-one meeting.

Asked by reporters whether he and Kim would discuss arms sales, Putin said that they would address “all the questions” and that “there is time,” the state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Putin also suggested that Russia could help North Korea develop satellites, noting that Kim was “showing great interest in rocket technology.”

During his tour of the spaceport, Kim appeared to ask detailed questions about the technology used there.

Kim’s private train arrived in Khasan, a Russian station just across North Korea’s northeastern border, early Tuesday local time, North Korean state media reported Wednesday. He was greeted on a red carpet by Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov and regional Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako, as well as an honor guard and a military band, the North Korean state news agency KCNA said.

Kim said his visit to Russia, which is his first since 2019, as well as his first trip outside North Korea after three years of pandemic isolation, showed that his government is “prioritizing the strategic importance” of North Korea-Russia relations.

The two U.S. adversaries have been drawing closer as their leaders face deepening diplomatic isolation — Putin over his 18-month war in Ukraine and Kim over his continued development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in violation of international sanctions.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov had said they would mainly discuss bilateral relations, including trade and economic ties and cultural exchanges.

Experts say Russia needs artillery shells as it tries to rebuff a Ukrainian counteroffensive, while North Korea is seeking energy and food aid, as well as Russian assistance in advancing its weapons programs.

The White House has repeatedly warned North Korea against making any arms deal with Russia, which would violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Russia’s far east is sparsely populated and largely undeveloped, and the Vostochny spaceport, a pet project of Putin’s that he has visited multiple times, is one of the few places in the region that would be suitable for a high-profile meeting between the Russian and North Korean heads of state.

The extremely remote, high-security facility is a four- to six-hour drive from the closest population center, Blagoveshchensk, with little infrastructure along the way.

The paved approaches are long and open from all directions, punctuated only by monuments to Russian space exploration and multiple layers of internal checkpoints. Inside, there are facilities designed to accommodate large foreign delegations.

Photos published by North Korean state media showed Kim was accompanied by Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui and senior military officials Ri Pyong Chol and Pak Jong Chon, as well as Jo Chun Ryong, an official in charge of munitions.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who visited North Korea in July, will also join the Putin-Kim talks, the Kremlin said Tuesday. During Shoigu’s North Korea trip, the first by a Russian defense minister since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, he appeared with Kim at a massive military parade in Pyongyang that included intercontinental ballistic missiles believed to have the range to strike anywhere in the U.S.

Putin and Kim met as North Korea continued its recent barrage of weapons tests earlier Wednesday, when it fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the sea, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.