Live updates: Analysts question whether Russia would share secret weapons tech with North Korea
Follow the latest updates on the meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin at a cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East on Wednesday.
WHAT TO KNOW:
— North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The visit marks a growing alignment of the isolated leaders of the nuclear-armed states.
— The leaders are trying to deepen their relationship as each one is locked in confrontation with the United States.
— Kim traveled to Russia in a special armored train, following a tradition begun by his predecessors.
Some analysts question whether Russia, which has always closely guarded its most important weapons technologies, even from key partners like China, would be willing to share them with North Korea.
Reports from a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia have hinted at Pyongyang exchanging ammunition for technology from Moscow.
The talks between the isolated, nuclear-armed leaders lasted for more than four hours and focused on expanding the military cooperation of two countries in intensifying confrontations with the West.
While the discussion reflects a change in the nature of the countries’ complicated relationship, any specifics of a purported deal between Russia and North Korea are unknown. The United Nations says all countries — including Russia — must abide by resolutions that ban arms exports from North Korea.
South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy, a think tank run by Seoul’s main spy agency, said in a report last week that the military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang was more likely to center around conventional capabilities.
Russia could possibly help North Korea improve its badly aged air force that remains reliant on fighter jets sent by the Soviet Union in the 1980s or provide anti-aircraft missiles to strengthen the North’s defense, the institute said.
But it remains unclear whether Russia would be willing to share such sensitive technologies for what could easily end up being a limited amount of North Korean ammunition slowly delivered through the small land link between the countries.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres says all countries — including Russia — must abide by resolutions that ban arms exports from North Korea.
Reports from a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia have hinted at Pyongyang exchanging ammunition for technology from Moscow — despite U.N. Security Council resolutions that would ban such a deal.
“Any form of cooperation of any country with North Korea must respect the sanctions regime that was imposed by the Security Council,” Guterres said during a news conference.
Analysts say North Korea may have tens of millions of aging artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could bolster Russian forces in Ukraine.
The United States has accused North Korea of providing Russia with arms, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Russian and North Korean officials deny such claims.
Any specifics of a purported deal between Russia and North Korea are unknown. Russian news reports haven’t included any details.
“Most of the agreements reached remained and will remain secret for the time being,” said Alexander Vorontsov of the Russian Academy of Science’s Institute of Asian Studies.
Vorontsov’s comments were reported by Russia’s state Tass agency.
A U.S. State Department official says an arms deal between Russia and North Korea would violate existing sanctions.
Such a deal would trigger a U.S. attempt to identify the individuals involved and the financial mechanisms they used to “at least limit their ability to be effective,” said James O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination.
O’Brien spoke to The Associated Press shortly after a historic meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin concluded.
“Russia is scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for help because it’s having trouble sustaining its military,” he said. “Russia is now overtly engaging with a country that the UN has sanctioned. And that’s very problematic for Russia’s global position.”
The U.S. expects that the Russians will claim they are receiving assistance from North Korea, O’Brien said. Officials are concerned that Russia will try to deepen that relationship through various means, including possibly hiring North Korean workers — a move that also would violate current sanctions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will continue his trip across Russia’s Far East after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin told Russian state TV that Kim would have a “busy program” with visits to two more cities over the next day.
Putin said Kim would visit an aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur and then attend “a demonstration of capabilities” of Russia’s Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says he and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed to deepen their “strategic and tactical cooperation,” and that he believes Russia will achieve military victory, apparently referring to the war in Ukraine.
Kim spoke after talks with Putin that lasted over four hours.
Referring to the Russian leader as “ Comrade Putin,” Kim said the two were working to ensure enduring peace in the world.
He added: “We believe with certainty that the Russian army and people will surely achieve a great victory in the just fight to punish the evil forces pursuing hegemonic and expansionary ambitions, and create a stable environment for national development.”
South Korea says that North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast as leader Kim Jong Un was in Russia for meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
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 rare trip overseas.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said its nuclear envoy, Kim Gunn, spoke by phone with his U.S. and Japanese counterparts and that they condemned the North Korean launches as a “clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolution and a serious threat to the region’s peace and stability.”
With the summit focused on military cooperation, Kim could have ordered the launches to demonstrate North Korea’s defense posture and show that he remains in close control of the country’s military activities even while abroad, said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
Moon, a retired South Korean brigadier general who participated in past inter-Korean military talks, said the North could have also intended to express its anger toward the United States, after State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a press briefing that Putin was meeting “an international pariah” seeking assistance in a war.
The Putin-Kim meeting reflects a change in the nature of the relationship between Russia and North Korea, countries which have had a complicated relationship.
During the 1950-53 Korean War, the Soviet Union provided ammunition, warplanes and pilots to support communist North Korea’s invasion of the South, and the decades of Soviet sponsorship of the North that followed.
In what appears to mark a reversal, U.S. officials say Putin may ask for artillery and other ammunition for his war in Ukraine.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has told Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country offers its “full and unconditional support” for Russia’s “fight” to defend its security interests, in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine, and that Pyongyang will always stand with Moscow on the “anti-imperialist” front.
Kim also called North Korea’s relations with Russia “the first priority.” Putin in his opening remarks welcomed Kim to Russia and said he was glad to see him. Putin listed economic cooperation, humanitarian issues and the “situation in the region” among the agenda items for their talks.
The leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome for a summit that underscores how their interests are aligning in the face of their countries’ separate, intensifying confrontations with the United States.
The U.S. warned that meeting could lead to a deal to supply ammunition for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
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