North Korea’s Kim Jong Un leaves for Russia to meet Putin

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, in April 2019. — AFP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, in April 2019. — AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has left for Russia on a special train after Pyongyang and Moscow confirmed a meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Monday, as per media reports.

Speculations suggest that the talks could revolve around a potential exchange of artillery shells and antitank missiles from North Korea for advanced technology, food aid, and other provisions. Experts believe that Kim may seek technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines as part of the negotiations.

Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia comes at the invitation of President Putin and marks a significant development in the context of North Korean diplomacy. The reclusive leader has rarely ventured outside of North Korea, particularly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, making this international trip noteworthy.

The trip has raised questions about potential arms deals between North Korea and Russia, which could have implications for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. 

The White House has already warned that North Korea could face consequences if it supplies weaponry to Russia for its involvement in Ukraine. The concern is that such weapons could be used to target Ukrainian food supplies and heating infrastructure.

Additionally, experts see the summit as a form of diplomatic leverage employed by Moscow against Seoul. Russia may seek to dissuade South Korea from supplying weapons to Ukraine by engaging in negotiations with North Korea. 

South Korea is a significant arms exporter and has sold tanks to Poland, a key ally of Ukraine. However, domestic policy restricts South Korea from selling weapons into active conflicts.

The outcome of the summit could influence North Korea’s military cooperation with Russia and potentially impact the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. If North Korea provides support to Russia, it could expedite advancements in North Korea’s nuclear submarine and reconnaissance satellite development.

Kim Jong Un’s preference for train travel during international trips has become well-known. His decision to travel by train is influenced by concerns about potential aerial attacks and a lack of confidence in his private jet. In 2019, he made a 60-hour train journey from Hanoi to Pyongyang after a summit with then-US President Donald Trump.

The summit between Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin underscores the complex geopolitical dynamics at play in the region and the potential implications for ongoing conflicts and negotiations.

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