Kim Tells Putin North Korea ‘Fully Supports’ Russia On Ukraine

North Korea wholeheartedly supports Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, leader Kim Jong Un told President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday during a state visit to Pyongyang, raising concerns about further sanctions-busting military collaboration.

The two globally isolated leaders, who hugged on the red carpet at the airport, signed a new “strategic partnership” agreement during Putin’s first visit to the nuclear-armed North since 2000.

The two countries have been allies since North Korea’s establishment following World War II, and they have grown closer as Russia wants to form a unified front against the West.

Kim welcomed a “new era” in bilateral relations Wednesday, saying “North Korea expresses full support and solidarity to the Russian government” over the conflict in Ukraine, which has resulted in a slew of UN sanctions on Moscow.

Putin, in turn, complimented his host Kim, who has been under UN sanctions for a decade over his illegal weapons programs, saying Moscow valued his “consistent and unwavering” support.

The United States and its allies have accused North Korea of helping Russia with ammunition and missiles for its war in Ukraine, and there are concerns that Putin’s visit may result in additional military deliveries.

Putin invited his host to Moscow during a greeting ceremony in Kim Il Sung Square, which included a military band and mass synchronised dance.

The summit, which included a lengthy one-on-one conversation between the leaders, marked their second encounter in a year.

Kim traveled by bulletproof train to Russia’s far east last September for a rendezvous with Putin at a space port.

Experts said the trip was mostly about defence relations, but the leaders may publicly promote economic cooperation – any arms agreements would violate UN sanctions.

“Russia requires North Korea’s weapon support due to the prolonged war in Ukraine, while North Korea needs Russia’s support in terms of food, energy, and advanced weapons,” Koh Yu-hwan, emeritus professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, told AFP.

“The military alliance aspect, however, should be viewed separately from what is publicly announced,” he stated, adding that Moscow was wary of “completely burning bridges with countries like South Korea.”

Needs weapons

Pyongyang has dismissed charges of sending weaponry to Russia as “absurd”.

However, it applauded Russia in March for using its Security Council veto to essentially terminate monitoring of sanctions violations, just as UN specialists began investigating alleged arms transfers.

The US expressed “concern” about Putin’s trip on Monday, citing the security implications for both South Korea and Ukraine.

Vladimir Tikhonov, professor of Korean Studies at the University of Oslo, told AFP that Putin’s assistance allowed Kim to “balance his reliance” on its other main partner, Beijing.

In exchange, Putin “gets secure access to Soviet-type artillery shells, which he needs in enormous quantities right now,” he continued.

The two Koreas have been technically at war since their 1950-53 struggle, and the border between them is one of the world’s most strongly defended.

Highlighting such security worries, South Korea said its troops fired warning shots at North Korean soldiers who crossed the border accidently on Tuesday and then fled, during what Seoul described as border reinforcing measures.

In recent months, the North has demolished railway links and removed streetlamps from highways that previously connected the two Koreas, while laying more mines in what many believe was a symbolic campaign to convince Seoul that it was not open to diplomacy.

This week’s visit is Putin’s way of thanking the North “for acting as a ‘arsenal for autocracy’ in support of his illegal invasion of Ukraine,” according to Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

According to Kim Sung-bae, senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul, it is also part of Russia’s efforts to secure “strategic space” in Northeast Asia in order to offset US influence in the region.

“This intention is further evidenced by Putin’s visit to Vietnam,” he said, adding that the Russian leader is scheduled to fly to Hanoi following his trip to the North.

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