In the coming weeks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to information disclosed by a US official to CBS, BBC’s partner in the US.
The focal point of their discussion is anticipated to be the potential arms deal between North Korea and Russia, where North Korea would support Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine with weapon supplies. The precise venue of this high-stake meeting remains undisclosed.
Recent reports indicate that Kim Jong Un is likely to travel by fortified train, a mode of transportation he has preferred for security reasons. This crucial meeting unfolds amid escalating concerns from the White House, highlighting that negotiations over arms deals are progressing at a significant pace.
John Kirby, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, noted the efforts of Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, in persuading North Korea to facilitate artillery ammunition sales during his recent visit to the country. The meeting unveiled North Korea’s advancements in weaponry, including the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile, a significant shift to solid propellants.
Shoigu’s July visit to North Korea has paved the way for deeper bilateral cooperation, with both Kim and Putin committing to strengthen their ties further. This has stoked fears in the international community, particularly regarding what North Korea might receive in return, potentially fostering a stronger military alliance in the Asian continent.
Amid these developments, Seoul and Washington express grave concerns over the prospective military collaboration, which could also witness joint naval exercises involving Russia, China, and North Korea, mirroring the drills conducted by the US, South Korea, and Japan. Furthermore, the ongoing negotiations raise alarms about the potential exchange of advanced weapons technology, which could facilitate North Korea in advancing their nuclear arsenal.
However, experts suggest that this deal might be more of a transactional nature rather than a strategic alliance, addressing Russia’s immediate need for weaponry and North Korea’s crippling sanctions-induced financial and food shortages.
The impending meeting is speculated to occur in Vladivostok, a port city situated on Russia’s east coast, as indicated by advanced teams from North Korea visiting the city and Moscow recently. Despite these indications, both countries have publicly denied any arms supply arrangements concerning the conflict in Ukraine.
Former UK ambassador to North Korea, John Everard, argues that the heightened media attention surrounding the potential meeting might deter its realization, given Kim Jong Un’s stringent measures to maintain secrecy around his movements.
Everard further noted the pressing need for munitions in Moscow and predicted that North Korea would leverage this to demand steep prices for their weapon supplies, despite their deteriorated condition.
This meeting comes as a follow-up to their last encounter in April 2019 in Vladivostok, emphasizing the necessity for “security guarantees” for North Korea to consider denuclearization, a significant point of discussion in the broader diplomatic sphere, marked by failed attempts to promote denuclearization in the Korean peninsula during the Trump administration.
The global community now watches closely, with concerns mounting over the potential ramifications of this meeting on the stability and security dynamics in the region.