Kim Jong Un tours Putin’s war arsenal, raises concerns about budding alliance, but top US general downplays potential threat

Kim Jong Un reviewed Moscow’s hypersonic missiles, nuclear bomber planes and a warship on Saturday during a trip to Russia that raised concerns in the West over a budding alliance between North Korea and Vladimir Putin amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, although the top American general responded. minimizing the potential impact the two countries could have.

Kim traveled to an airport in the eastern Russian port city of Vladivostok, where Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior Russian military officials gave him a tour of Russian fighter jets, including Tu-160 bombers. , Tu-95 and Tu-22 which have been periodically launching cruise missiles in Ukraine.

Shoigu, flanked by Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash, commander of the Russian long-range bomber unit, reportedly told Kim that the Tu-160 bomber plane was recently equipped with new missiles with a range of more than 4,040 miles.

Senior Russian military commanders’ comments to Kim during the trip are the first time the deployment of these new missiles has been confirmed, after officials previously said the weapon was in development.

Shoigu also showed Kim a close-up look at a Kinzhal hypersonic missile, which is carried by MiG-31 fighter jets and was unveiled for the first time in Ukraine. The missile is capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads and has the ability to travel at more than 7,600 mph.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected Russian fighter jets at Vladivostok International Airport on Saturday.AP

Kim’s trip to Russia included more than four hours of talks with Putin on Wednesday and suggests the potential for cooperation between the North Korean leader, who recently said he wants to strengthen his Navy, and Moscow, which urgently needs ammunition to fuel its war in Ukraine. .

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The United States has been accusing North Korea of ​​sending munitions, artillery and missiles to Russia and South Korean officials said these weapons were used during the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

North Korea “may represent the largest source of compatible legacy artillery munitions outside of Russia, including domestic production facilities for additional supplies,” said Joseph Dempsey, research associate for military and defense analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a staged photograph.Since last year, the United States has accused North Korea of ​​providing ammunition to Russia to fuel its war in Ukraine. AP

However, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said an alliance between the two countries may not end up making much of a difference.

Milley, during a trip to Norway for NATO meetings that began Saturday, acknowledged that the meeting between Kim and Putin will likely lead to a deal in which North Korea will provide artillery to Moscow, but it is unclear how much will be provided or When will that agreement be finalized? could be executed.

“Would there be a big difference? “I’m skeptical about it,” Milley, emphasizing that while he didn’t want to downplay the potential arms trade, “I doubt it will be decisive.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un listen to a speaker with their backs to the camera, surrounded by their assistants, at a rocket assembly plant in Russia.Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un also examined a rocket assembly hangar during the visit. AP

In exchange, Kim would likely receive advanced weapons or military technology from Russia, Milley said.

Admiral Rob Bauer of the Netherlands, chairman of NATO’s Military Committee, said during Saturday’s meeting that Ukraine also continues to need weapons and ammunition, but the quantity it needs is so large that it has put pressure on weapons production in everyone. the world.

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“When you think about giving away weapons or ammunition, you have to think… what is the risk that I run against my own disposition?” Bauer said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to visit the White House next week during a trip to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly, as Congress debates President Joe Biden’s request to send up to $24 billion more in military and humanitarian aid for the ongoing war.

“It certainly comes at a critical time, as Russia desperately seeks help from countries like North Korea for its brutal war in Ukraine, as Ukrainian forces continue to advance their counteroffensive, and just after the upcoming meeting of the U.S. defense contact group. Ukraine that [Defense] “Secretary Austin is organizing with dozens of our allies and partners in Europe early next week,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said during a White House news conference on Friday.

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