North Korean leader Kim Jong-un arrived in Russia’s far eastern port of Vladivostok on Saturday. During his visit, he was shown nuclear-capable bombers, fueling concerns about potential military cooperation between North Korea and Russia. The visit comes amidst the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Kim’s trip to Russia includes a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Military cooperation between the two countries is gaining momentum, and there are speculations that North Korea may seek Russian technologies to enhance its military nuclear program in exchange for providing Russia with munitions.
Kim is expected to visit Russian naval ships in Vladivostok, another possible indication of what he wants from Russia. He has been emphasizing the need to strengthen his navy to counter the advanced naval assets of the United States. Analysts speculate that Kim may seek joint naval exercises with Russia as well as sophisticated technologies for submarines and ballistic missiles.
Kim’s arrival in the city of Artyom was announced by Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Russia’s Primorsky region. Kim was greeted by children presenting flowers. He then toured the Vladivostok airport where he was shown Russia’s nuclear-capable strategic bombers and other warplanes.
During his visit to a plant producing Russia’s Su-57 fighter jets, Kim expressed admiration for Russia’s aviation technologies. The possible military cooperation between North Korea and Russia includes the modernization of North Korea’s air force, which currently relies on warplanes from the 1980s.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported on Kim’s activities in Russia. However, details are adjusted to meet the government’s propaganda purposes.
Although no formal agreements on bilateral military cooperation were signed between Putin and Kim, experts suggest that both countries would likely avoid publicizing any deals on weapons to avoid international criticism.
The visit to Russia is Kim’s first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began. He seeks to strengthen partnerships with Moscow and Beijing to break out of international isolation and establish a united front against the United States. It is speculated that Kim might also pursue a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Kim’s visit comes at a time when a team of North Korean athletes departed for China to participate in the Asian Games. Around 190 North Korean athletes will compete in the event.
The United States and South Korea have recently condemned the moves by Russia and North Korea. They pledged to identify and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment and ensure that Moscow faces consequences for aiding North Korea’s weapons program.