North Korea’s Kim vows full support for Russia’s ‘just fight’ after visiting launchpad with Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in Russia’s far eastern Amur region. . On Wednesday, September 13, 2023. (Vladimir Smirnov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
By Kim Tong-Hyung and Dasha Litvinova
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed support for Russia’s “just fight” during a summit with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday that the US warned would provide ammunition for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. There may be an agreement for the supply of gunpowder.
After visiting a launch pad with Putin at a remote space base in Russia’s Far East, Kim expressed “full and unconditional support” and said Pyongyang would always stand with Moscow on an “anti-imperialist” front.
The leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome for a summit that underlined how their interests are aligning in the face of their countries’ separate, intense confrontation with the United States. Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the talks lasted four to five hours, after which Kim left.
Analysts say North Korea may have millions of old artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could provide a huge boost to Russian forces in Ukraine.
The decision to meet at the cosmodrome, Russia’s most important launch center on its soil, suggests Kim is seeking Russian help in developing military reconnaissance satellites, which he has said is vital to bolstering the threat of his nuclear-capable missiles. In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly failed to put its first military spy satellite into orbit.
But buying arms from North Korea or providing it with rocket technology would violate international sanctions that Russia has supported in the past.
Kim’s limousine, brought from Pyongyang in the North Korean leader’s special armored train, was greeted by Putin with a handshake at the entrance to the launch facility, which lasted about 40 seconds. In his opening remarks, Putin welcomed Kim to Russia and said he was glad to see him, adding that the talks would discuss economic cooperation, humanitarian issues and “the situation in the region.”
In return, Kim expressed support for Moscow’s efforts to protect its interests, in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine. “Russia is currently engaged in a just fight against hegemonic forces to safeguard its sovereign rights, security and interests,” the North Korean leader said. “I take this opportunity to reaffirm that we will always stand with Russia on the anti-imperialist front and on the front of freedom.”
The two men began their meeting with a tour of the Soyuz-2 space rocket launch facility, at which Kim asked a Russian space official questions about the rocket.
According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Kim and Putin met with their delegations and later held a one-on-one meeting. Russian state media reported that after the talks, the Russian president hosted an official lunch for Kim.
The meeting came hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the sea, extending a highly provocative round of North Korean weapons testing since the beginning of 2022, as Kim vows to accelerate its weapons development. used the distraction caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not immediately say how far the North Korean missiles flew. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the missiles hit waters outside the country’s exclusive economic zones and there were no reports of damage to ships or aircraft.
Official photos showed Kim was accompanied by Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s Space Science and Technology Committee, and Navy Admiral Kim Myong Sik, who is critical of North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines. are connected. To the Ministry of Unification of South Korea.
Asked whether Russia would help North Korea build a satellite, Russian state media quoted Putin as saying, “That’s why we came here. DPRK leaders show keen interest in rocket technology. They are also trying to develop the location, using the abbreviation of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Asked about military cooperation, Putin said, “We will talk on all issues without any haste.” there is time.”
According to South Korea, Kim also brought Jo Chun Ryong, the ruling party official in charge of munitions policies, who joined him on recent tours of factories making artillery shells and missiles.
Despite the recent frequency of North Korean missile firings, Wednesday’s launch came as a surprise on the eve of the summit. South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said it was the first time the North launched a missile while Kim was on a trip abroad.
Moon Seong Mook, an analyst at the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute, said Kim could have ordered the launch to inform Putin about North Korea’s defense posture and to show that he is keeping a close eye on the country’s military activities even while living abroad. Have control. National Strategy.
Moon, a retired South Korean brigadier general who participated in previous inter-Korea military talks, said the North may also intend to express its anger toward the United States with the launch, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a press briefing. Said that Putin was “meeting with an international pariah to ask for help in the war.”
The United States has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials denied such claims.
Speculation about military cooperation intensified after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea in July. Kim then toured its weapons factories, which experts said had the dual goal of encouraging North Korean weapons modernization and examining artillery and other supplies that could be exported to Russia.
Litvinova reported from Tallin, Estonia. Associated Press journalists Jim Heintz in Tallin, Estonia; Aamer Madani and Matthew Lee in Washington; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Deck Kang and Ng Han Guan in Fangchuan, China; Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; And John Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed.
Full article updated.