Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for talks on Wednesday that could see them forge an arms deal that would defy global sanctions.
Putin said he was “very glad” to see Kim, Russian state television reported, after Kremlin footage showed the pair shaking hands enthusiastically at the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport in the far east of Russia.
While Kim was in Russia, Pyongyang fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, the latest in a string of sanctions-busting tests.
Experts say Russia will likely use the talks to seek artillery shells and antitank missiles from North Korea, which wants advanced satellite and nuclear-powered submarine technology in return.
“We’ll talk about all the issues, without haste. There is time,” Putin said, when asked by reporters whether military cooperation would be on the agenda.
Kim, who travelled overland to Russia in his bullet-proof train, was accompanied by an entourage that suggested the summit would have a strong military focus.
Among the top military officials accompanying Kim were Korean People’s Army Marshal Pak Jong Chon and Munitions Industry Department Director Jo Chun Ryong, according to the North’s state media.
Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu took part in the talks with Kim, as did Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, images on Russian state television showed.
Ahead of the announcement of the talks, Russian news agencies published images of Kim and Putin touring the vast space centre.
“The leader of the DPRK shows great interest in rocket technology, and they are trying to develop (their presence in) space,” Putin said, referring to North Korea by its official name.
Kim thanked Putin for inviting him to visit, despite the Russian leader’s “busy schedule”.
Kim had earlier stressed the trip — his first post-pandemic foreign travel — showed North Korea was “prioritising the strategic importance” of its Russia ties.