POLITICS

North Korea’s leader is in Russia to meet Putin, with both locked in standoffs with the West

Sep 11, 2023, 8:16 PM | Updated: Sep 12, 2023, 7:56 pm

This Sept. 10, 2023 photo provided by the North Korean government shows that North Korea leader Kim...

This Sept. 10, 2023 photo provided by the North Korean government shows that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un waves from a train in Pyongyang, North Korea, as he leaves for Russia. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: "KCNA" which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea’s Kim Jong Un rolled through Russia on an armored train Tuesday toward a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, a rare encounter between isolated leaders driven together by their need for support in escalating standoffs with the West.

Kim is expected to seek economic aid and military technology for his impoverished country, and, in a twist, appears to have something Putin desperately needs: munitions for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

It’s a chance for the North Korean leader to get around crippling U.N. sanctions and years of diplomatic isolation. For Putin, it’s an opportunity to refill ammunition stores that the war has drained.

Any arms deal with North Korea would violate the sanctions, which Russia supported in the past.

Kim’s personal train stopped in Khasan, a station on the Russia-North Korea border, early Tuesday where it was met by a military honor guard and a brass band. He was met on a red carpet by regional Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako and Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov, according to North Korean state media and video posted on social media.

Kim said his decision to visit Russia four years after his previous visit — his first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic — showed how Pyongyang is “prioritizing the strategic importance” of its relations with Moscow, North Korea’s official news agency said Wednesday.

The Korean Central News Agency said Kim then left for his destination, but it didn’t specify where.

Many had assumed he and Putin would meet in Vladivostok, a Russian city close to the border where the two leaders had their last meeting in 2019, and which Putin is visiting this week for an economic forum.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed only that Kim has entered Russia, and state news agency RIA-Novosti later reported his train had headed north after crossing the Razdolnaya River, taking it away from Vladivostok. The South Korean news agency Yonhap later published a photo it said showed the train in Ussuriysk, a city about 60 kilometers (about 40 miles) north of Vladivostok that has a sizable ethnic Korean population.

Some Russian news media speculate he is headed for the Vostochny spaceport, which Putin is to visit soon. At the forum, Putin declined to say what he intended to do there. The launch facility is about 900 kilometers (550 miles) northwest of Ussuriysk, but the route there is circuitous and it is unclear how long Kim’s slow-moving train would take to reach it. Workers on Wednesday were seen constructing a temporary wooden platform at a railway station in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, another city in the Russian Far East, for the arrival of Kim’s train. Citing unidentified Russian officials, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that Kim was expected to visit a plant in that city that produces Sukhoi fighter jets after his meeting with Putin. Peskov said Putin and Kim will meet after the Vladivostok forum, and that the meeting would include a lunch in Kim’s honor.

Kim left Pyongyang on his train Sunday, accompanied by members of the ruling party, government and military, KCNA said.

Officials identified in North Korean state media photos could hint at what Kim might seek from Putin and what he would be willing to give.

Kim is accompanied by Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official in charge of munitions policies who joined him on recent tours of factories producing artillery shells and missiles, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will be part of the Russian delegation, Peskov said.

Kim’s delegation also includes Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui and his top military officials, including Korean People’s Army Marshals Ri Pyong Chol and Pak Jong Chon and Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam.

North Korea may have tens of millions of aging artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could give a huge boost to the Russian army in Ukraine, analysts say.

Also identified in photos were Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and navy Adm. Kim Myong Sik, who are linked with North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines. Experts say North Korea would struggle to acquire such capabilities without external help, although it’s not clear if Russia would share such sensitive technology.

Kim Jong Un may also seek badly needed energy and food supplies, analysts say. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said Russia may discuss humanitarian aid with the North Korean delegation, according to Russian news agencies.

Data from FlightRadar24.com, which tracks flights worldwide, showed an Air Koryo An-148 took off from Pyongyang on Tuesday and flew to Vladivostok. North Korea’s national airline has only just resumed flying internationally after being grounded during the COVID-19 pandemic. There had been speculation that North Korea could use a plane to fly in support staff.

Kim is making his first foreign trip since the pandemic, during which North Korea imposed tight border controls for more than three years. After decades of hot-and-cold relations, Russia and North Korea have drawn closer since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Lim Soo-suk, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said Seoul was maintaining communication with Moscow while closely monitoring Kim’s visit.

“No U.N. member state should violate Security Council sanctions against North Korea by engaging in an illegal trade of arms, and must certainly not engage in military cooperation with North Korea that undermines the peace and stability of the international community,” Lim said at a briefing.

U.S. deputy ambassador Robert Wood said Tuesday that Moscow’s potential deals with North Korea could include “the provision of raw materials that would assist Russia’s defense industrial base.” Wood’s comments came during a U.N. Security Council meeting called by Russia to protest Western weapons supplies to Ukraine.

According to U.S. officials, Putin could focus on securing more supplies of North Korean artillery and other ammunition to refill arsenals as Moscow seeks to show it can grind out a war of attrition. That could potentially put more pressure on the U.S. and its partners to pursue negotiations as concerns over a protracted conflict grow despite their huge shipments of advanced weaponry to Ukraine in the past 18 months.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing Russia with arms, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials denied such claims.

Speculation about their military cooperation grew after Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, visited North Korea in July. Kim subsequently toured his weapons factories, which experts said had the dual goal of encouraging the modernization of North Korean weaponry and examining artillery and other supplies that could be exported to Russia.

___

Associated Press journalists Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia; Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee in Washington; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Dake Kang and Ng Han Guan in Fangchuan, China; Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.

___

Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Politics

Associated Press

Trooper with checkered FBI past convicted of child rape in Alabama

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A former FBI agent was convicted Friday of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl while serving as an Alabama state trooper — a law enforcement job he landed even after he was kicked out of the FBI amid earlier claims that he raped a co-worker at knifepoint. Christopher Bauer’s case, first detailed […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Reacting to Supreme Court ruling, governor wrongly says Buffalo supermarket killer used bump stock

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Around an hour after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a ban on bump stocks, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul wrongly said a gunman who carried out a racist massacre in her hometown of Buffalo had used the gun accessory that can allow semiautomatic rifles to shoot as fast as a machine […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Kansas governor and GOP leaders say they have a deal on tax cuts to end 2 years of stalemate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas’ Democratic governor and top Republican lawmakers say they have an agreement on a package of broad tax cuts, potentially ending a two-year political standoff that has prevented their state from following others in making big reductions. The deal announced late Thursday by Gov. Laura Kelly and GOP leaders would save […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

A week of disorder in Cleveland, as City Hall remains closed after ransomware attack

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland’s City Hall remained closed to the public Friday, as officials in Ohio’s second-largest city continued to grapple with the effects of a ransomware attack. City operations have been hampered all week by the threat, which was first detected Sunday. A spokeswoman for Democratic Mayor Justin Bibb told Cleveland.com on Friday that […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Judge says trial is required to decide government’s antitrust case over Google’s advertising tech

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) — A federal judge on Friday said the government’s antitrust case against Google over its advertising technology will go to trial in September, rejecting both sides’ request to rule in their favor as a matter of law. The Justice Department and Google had been expected to make their arguments seeking summary judgment […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Vermont governor vetoes data privacy bill, saying state would be most hostile to businesses

Vermont’s governor has vetoed a broad data privacy bill that would have been one of the strongest in the country to crack down on companies’ use of online personal data by letting consumers file civil lawsuits against companies that break certain privacy rules. Republican Gov. Phil Scott said in his veto message late Thursday that […]

5 hours ago

North Korea’s leader is in Russia to meet Putin, with both locked in standoffs with the West