North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Sunday departed for his home after concluding a six-day trip to Russia, a trip that sparked concerns across many countries over possible weapons transfer deals between two countries involved in separate confrontations with the West.
With Russia's march song 'Farewell of Slavianka' playing in the background, Kim's armoured, bulletproof train departed at the end of a farewell ceremony in Artyom, an eastern city in Russia that is just 200 km from the North Korean border, as per reports by Russian media. Russia's Minister of Natural Resources Alexander Kozlov and Primorye regional Governor Oleg Kozhemyako were present at the ceremony.
During his visit, Kim met Russian President Vladimir Putin and together they visited military and technology sites. The leaders underscored the defence cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow with Kim commiting "full, unconditional support" for Putin.
Kim's visit in Russia
Earlier on Sunday, Kim toured a university and watched a walrus show at an aquarium in Russia. He was accompanied by his top officials at the Far Eastern Federal University in Russky Island.
The day before, he met Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior military officials at an airport near Vladivostok to inspect Russian strategic bombers and warplanes. Prior to that, he visited an aircraft plant producing Russia's most powerful fighter jets.
Kim's meeting with Putin was held at Russia's main space launch site, symbolising the former's desire for Russian assistance in his efforts to acquire space-based reconnaissance assets and missile technologies.
Why is this meeting important?
The meeting was being watched closely by Western countries amid concerns that North Korea may provide Russia will millions of artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet design that can provide a major boost in Russia's war against Ukraine. In return, Pyongyang will seek desperately-needed shipments of food and energy along with modern weapons technologies.
In terms of weaponry, the North Korean leader is likely to seke Russian technology to support his plan to build an array of high-tech weapons systems like long-range missiles, ballistic weapons, nuclear submarines, spy satellites. North Korea has increased weapons production amid tense relations with the US and South Korea.
On the other hand, Russia is already facing international sanctions and export controls over the Ukraine conflict, which has caused Putin to seek weapons from other sanctioned countries like North Korea and Iran. An arms deal with Pyongyang will complicate efforts of a peaceful resolution proposed repeatedly by other countries.
Kozhemyako said that a Russian delegation would visit North Korea in the future, which would include himself and specialists from trade, tourism and agricultural sectors. The timings of the visit have not been announced yet.
North Korea has grown closer to Russia since the latter's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Speculations over military cooperation between the countries grew after Shoigu made a rare visit to an arms exhibition and military parade in North Korea in July. Pyongyang has also made concerted efforts to provide a united front against the US.
This is Kim's first meeting with a foreign leader since North Korea closed its borders in January 2020. Putin and Kim had met in 2019, after the latter's nuclear diplomacy talks with former US President Donald Trump collapsed.
(with agency input)