North Korea’s state media says Russian leader’s visit is a historic event and shows the ‘invincibility’ of the two countries ties.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un aim to further deepen ties between their nuclear-armed countries as the two men began talks soon after Putin arrived at Pyongyang international airport to a lavish red carpet welcome.

Putin landed in the North Korean capital before dawn on Wednesday morning where Kim was waiting to greet him. The two men shook hands and hugged while a woman in a traditional Korean hanbok presented Putin with a bouquet of red roses. The North Korean leader then joined Putin in his limousine as they travelled together in a motorcade, along streets decorated with the Russian flag and portraits of the Russian leader, to the Kumsusan State Guest House.

State news agency KCNA said the the meeting between the two leaders was a historic event that showed the “invincibility and durability” of the friendship and unity between North Korea and Russia. The two countries’ relations had “emerged as a strong strategic fortress for preserving international justice, peace and security and an engine for accelerating the building of a new multi-polar world”, it added.

Putin is on his first visit to North Korea in 24 years, with relations between the two countries growing closer since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 amid concerns that Pyongyang is providing Moscow with weaponry in return for Russian technological expertise.

A woman in a traditional Koran hanbok gives Vladimir Putin a bouquet of red roses
A woman in a hanbok presents Putin with a bouquet of red roses after he arrives in Pyongyang for his first visit in 24 years [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied arms transfers but have promised to boost military ties.

Putin and Kim last met in eastern Russia in September 2023.

North Korea has been under strict United Nations Security Council sanctions for years over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes. Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin is being accompanied by several top officials, including Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Denis Mantrurov. His foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said several documents would be signed during the visit, possibly including an agreement on a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Concerns about weapons

Along with China, North Korea’s main ally, Russia has repeatedly blocked US-led efforts to impose new UN sanctions over North Korea’s weapons tests and satellite launches.

In March, a Russian veto ended monitoring of UN sanctions, prompting Western accusations that Moscow was seeking to avoid scrutiny as it buys weapons from Pyongyang for use in Ukraine. US and South Korean officials have said they are discussing options for a new mechanism for monitoring Pyongyang.

In Washington, DC, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s visit to North Korea illustrated how Russia tried, “in desperation, to develop and to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine”.

“North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia… and other weapons for use in Ukraine. Iran has been providing weaponry, including drones, that have been used against civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Blinken told reporters following a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg reiterated concerns about the “potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programmes”.

The motorcade taking Putin and Kim into the city. Outriders in formation are in front. It is dark so the vehicles all have their lights on. There is a large billboard behind depicting Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung
The two leaders travelled in a giant motorcade along the streets of Pyongyang [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool via Reuters]

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen in recent months, amid weapons tests in North Korea and large-scale military exercises in South Korea. A 2018 military agreement between the two countries fell apart last year and Pyongyang has been beefing up its defences at the border.

South Korea said on Tuesday that its forces had to fire warning shots after North Korean soldiers involved in laying mines and other activities crossed the border, apparently by mistake. A similar incident occurred on June 9.

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