North Korean leader Kim Jong Un peeked into the cockpit of Russia’s most advanced fighter jet as he toured an aircraft factory on Friday on a long, rare trip abroad that has raised concerns about banned arms transfer deals between increasingly isolated countries.
Since entering Russia aboard his armored train on Tuesday, Kim has met with President Vladimir Putin and visited weapons and technology sites, underscoring deepening ties between nations locked in separate confrontations with the West.
Foreign governments and experts speculate that Kim will likely supply Russia with munitions for its war efforts in Ukraine in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Russia.
Earlier Friday, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti published a video showing Kim’s train arriving at a station in the far-eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Kim’s convoy leaving the station shortly. after.
The region’s governor later posted photos on social media showing Kim at the aircraft factory, looking at the Su-57, Russia’s most sophisticated fighter jet, and shaking hands with a pilot.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with employees while visiting a Russian aircraft plant building fighter jets in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, about 3,900 miles east of Moscow, Russia.AP
Kim at the aircraft factory, looking at the Su-57, Russia’s most sophisticated fighter jet, on September 15, 2023. via REUTERS
One photograph showed a demonstration flight of a Su-35, another Russian fighter jet manufactured at the plant.
The governor, Mikhail Degtyarev, said Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, also visited the plant in 2002.
“Our fathers and grandfathers fought together against Japanese militarism, our country supported North Korea in its fight against the imperial ambitions of the United States in the 1950s, and now we are resisting Western pressure together,” he said.
“I am confident that our countries will continue to defend the ideals of freedom and the multipolar world through our joint efforts.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un attend a meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region of Russia on September 13, 2023. via REUTERS
In addition to Degtyarev, Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov accompanied Kim to the plant. According to a statement from the Russian Cabinet, Kim also visited a facility that produces Sukhoi SJ-100 airliners.
“We have shown one of our main aircraft plants to the leader of (North Korea),” Manturov said in the statement.
“We see potential for cooperation in the aviation industry and other industries, which is particularly important in solving our country’s task of achieving technological sovereignty.”
Kim will travel next to Vladivostok to see the Russian Pacific fleet, a university and other facilities, Putin told Russian media after meeting Kim.
Experts say that in exchange for helping Putin replenish war supplies, Kim would seek Russian help to modernize his air force and navy, which are inferior to those of rival South Korea, while Kim has devoted much of his own resources to its nuclear weapons program.
Wednesday’s Kim-Putin summit took place at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s most important domestic launch center. North Korea has struggled to put an operational spy satellite in space to monitor U.S. and South Korean military movements.
Asked whether Russia and North Korea could cooperate on space research, Putin said: “That’s why we came here. (Kim) shows a great interest in rocket technology. “They are also trying to develop the space.”
Kim Jong Un listens to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Trade and Industry Denis Manturov (center left) as he visits a Russian aircraft plant building fighter jets in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia.AP
Putin, for his part, would like to receive ammunition, artillery shells and even ballistic missiles from North Korea to replenish his depleted weapons inventory in the second year of Russia’s war in Ukraine, foreign experts say.
Since last year, the United States has accused North Korea of providing munitions, artillery shells and rockets to Russia, many of them likely copies of Soviet-era munitions.
South Korean officials said North Korean weapons provided to Russia have already been used in Ukraine.
Kim Jong Un and Putin visit the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur region on September 14, 2023. KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Images
On Thursday night, national security advisers from the United States, South Korea and Japan spoke by phone and expressed “serious concerns” about potential arms deals between Russia and North Korea.
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They warned that Russia and North Korea would “pay a clear price” if they go ahead with such agreements, according to South Korea’s presidential office.
The White House said the three national security advisers noted that any North Korean arms export to Russia would directly violate multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, including resolutions that Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. council, voted for. to adopt.
They also reiterated their cooperation toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, according to a White House statement.
South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho warned Thursday that possible arms transfers between the North and Russia would prompt stronger responses from South Korea, the United States and Japan, which have been stepping up their trilateral cooperation on the issue. to address regional threats.
Some analysts wonder to what extent Russia would be willing to share its closely guarded high-tech weapons technologies with North Korea in exchange for its conventional weapons.
The governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk region, Mikhail Degtyarev, attends a ceremony to welcome North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Khabarovsk region, Russia, on September 15, 2023. via REUTERS
But others say Russia would do so because of its urgent need to replenish its depleted reserves.
Putin told reporters that Russia and North Korea have “many interesting projects” in spheres such as transportation and agriculture and that Moscow is providing humanitarian aid to its neighbor.
But he avoided talking about military cooperation and limited himself to saying that Russia is complying with sanctions that prohibit the acquisition of weapons from North Korea.
North Korean state media said Thursday that Kim invited Putin to visit North Korea at a “convenient time.” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov later said Putin had accepted the invitation and that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to visit North Korea in October.
During Wednesday’s summit, Kim pledged “full and unconditional support” to Putin in what he described as a “just fight against hegemonic forces to defend their sovereign rights, security and interests,” in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.
Information about Kim’s trip to Russia comes largely from the official media of the two nations. North Korean media provided no updates Friday on Kim’s activities. They usually report on Kim’s activities a day later, apparently to satisfy North Korea’s need for propaganda to glorify Kim.