Russian President Vladimir Putin said he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un would discuss Pyongyang’s satellite program, among other issues, as they met on Wednesday at a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East.
When asked whether the two leaders would talk about obtaining supplies from the North to replenish Moscow’s dwindling stock of weapons and ammunition, Putin said they would discuss “all issues”. Washington and its allies believe defence cooperation is a top agenda item for the meeting.
Kim, speaking through an interpreter, thanked Putin for the invitation and the warmth of his reception.
The summit between the leaders of the two countries, which have become increasingly isolated internationally, is being watched closely by Washington and its allies, who suspect they could agree to trade arms and defense technology.
The choice to meet at Vostochny Cosmodrome, a symbol of Russia’s ambitions as a space power, was notable, as North Korea has twice failed to launch reconnaissance satellites in the past four months.
In footage released by a Russian news agency, Kim and Putin are seen shaking hands and grinning broadly while standing outside, surrounded by security personnel and Russian media representatives, before walking together into a gleaming glass-walled building.
Hours ahead of the anticipated summit, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles from an area near the capital, Pyongyang, into the sea off its east coast, South Korea’s military and the Japanese government said.
It was the first such launch by the North while Kim was abroad, analysts said. Kim has traveled outside the country only seven times in his 12 years in power, all in 2018 and 2019. He also briefly stepped across the inter-Korean border twice.
On Tuesday, Peskov said that Kim’s visit would be a “fully fledged” one and that the two sides would conduct “negotiations”. Humanitarian aid to North Korea and U.N. Security Council resolutions imposed on Pyongyang may also be discussed.
Russia’s foreign ministry said the talks are important considering geopolitical changes in the world. Kim arrived in Russia by private train on Tuesday with top defense industry and military aides and said his visit highlighted the “strategic importance” of the two countries’ ties.
Kim could offer artillery rounds from North Korea’s large stockpile, which could replenish Russia’s capabilities in the short term.
South Korea and the United States have warned that such a deal would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, which Russia, as a permanent member of the council, voted to approve. North Korea is one of the few countries to have openly supported Russia over the Ukraine conflict, and Putin pledged last week to “expand bilateral ties in all respects in a planned way by pooling efforts”.