Kim Jong Un’s train crossing into Russian territory
North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has arrived in Russia ahead of talks with Vladimir Putin.
Aboard the infamous armoured state train, Kim crossed over the border into Russia in its far east, eventually stopping at Ussuriysk.
Unlike other official meetings between two world leaders, details of the trip have not been made public. Only yesterday did the Kremlin acknowledge a meeting would take place, despite US claims the week prior that such a trip was going to happen.
It had been rumoured that the pair would meet in Vladivostok, where they last met in April 2019. But Kim’s train appears to have bypassed Vladivostok and is heading for Khabarovsk, which is in a different direction.
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Kim is expected to seek Russian economic aid and military technology in exchange for munitions to be used in Russia’s war in Ukraine.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim boarded his personal train bound for Russia on Sunday afternoon, accompanied by members of the ruling party, government and military.
After decades of complicated, hot-and-cold relations, Russia and North Korea have drawn closer since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
The bond has been driven by Putin’s need for war supplies and Kim’s efforts to boost his partnerships with traditional allies Moscow and Beijing as he tries to break out of diplomatic isolation.
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South Korea’s military assessed the train crossed into Russia early ON Tuesday, Jeon Ha Gyu, spokesperson of South Korea’s Defense Ministry, said without elaborating on how the military obtained the information.
Later on Tuesday, Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as confirming Kim had entered Russia, and reported that his train had crossed the Razdolnaya River, north of Vladivostok.
Officials identified in North Korean state media photos may hint at what Kim might seek from Putin and what he would be willing to give.
Kim is apparently accompanied by Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official in charge of munitions policies who joined the leader on recent tours of factories producing artillery shells and missiles, said South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
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North Korea may have tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could give a huge boost to the Russian army in Ukraine, analysts say.
Also identified in photos were Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and Navy Adm. Kim Myong Sik, who is linked with North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines.
Experts say North Korea would struggle to acquire such capabilities without external help, although it’s not clear if Russia would share such sensitive technologies.
Kim Jong Un may also seek badly needed energy and food supplies, analysts say. Deputy foreign minister Andrei Rudenko said Russia may discuss humanitarian aid with the North Korean delegation, according to Russian news agencies.
Kim’s delegation also likely includes his foreign minister, Choe Sun Hui, and his top two military officials, Korean People’s Army Marshals Ri Pyong Chol and Pak Jong Chon.
Putin arrived in the eastern city of Vladivostok on Monday to attend an international forum that runs through Wednesday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. Putin’s first meeting with Kim was held in 2019 in the city, which is about 425 miles north of Pyongyang.
Peskov said Putin and Kim will meet after the Vladivostok forum, but the reports didn’t specify when or where. He added that the meeting would include a lunch in Kim’s honour.
Kim is making his first foreign trip since the pandemic, during which North Korea imposed tight border controls for more than three years.
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