Shoigu and Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash, commander of Russia’s long-range bombers, explained to Kim that the Tu-160 had recently received new cruise missiles with a range of more than 4,040 miles. Pointing to the weapons bay, Shoigu said each bomber carried 12 missiles.
Russian officials have previously said the new missile is under development and the latest comments confirmed its deployment for the first time.
Shoigu, who met with Kim during a rare visit to North Korea in July, also showed Kim another of Russia’s latest missiles, the hypersonic Kinzhal, carried by the MiG-31 fighter jet, which saw its first combat during the war in Ukraine, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Kim and Shoigu then traveled to Vladivostok, where they inspected the frigate Admiral Shaposhnikov. Russian Navy Commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov briefed Kim on the ship’s capabilities and weapons, which include long-range Kalibr cruise missiles that Russian warships routinely fire at targets in Ukraine.
Kim’s visits to military and technology sites this week perhaps suggest what he wants from Russia, perhaps in exchange for munitions supplies to replenish Putin’s dwindling reserves as his invasion of Ukraine turns into a long-lasting war of attrition.
Kim’s trip to Russia, which included more than four hours of talks with Putin on Wednesday, comes amid military cooperation between the countries in which North Korea could potentially seek Russian technology to advance nuclear, missile programs and other Kim military programs in exchange for supplying Russia with badly needed munitions.
Videos released by the Russian Defense Ministry showed Shoigu greeting Kim at the airport with honor guards lined up near a red carpet. Kim was seen observing the Kinzhal missile, gesturing and asking questions about the fighter jets’ capabilities while discussing technical details with Shoigu and other military officials through translators.
Kim was also seen talking to Shoigu and Yevmenov about an alleged nuclear attack submarine that the North unveiled last week as they disembarked from the Shaposhnikov frigate.
The visit follows one Kim made on Friday to a factory producing advanced Russian fighter jets.
Kim has stressed in recent months the need to strengthen his navy to counter the advanced naval assets of the United States, which has expanded its combined military exercises with South Korea to counter the growing threat from the North.
Analysts say Kim’s emphasis on naval strength could be driven by his ambitions to acquire sophisticated technologies for ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as the launch of joint naval exercises between Russia and North Korea.
After meeting with Putin at Russia’s main spaceport, a location that underscored Kim’s desire to enlist Russia’s help in his efforts to acquire space reconnaissance and missile technology, the North Korean leader is reappeared in the Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur on Friday for a tour of a factory producing Russian Su-57 fighter jets.
Experts say possible military cooperation between the two countries could include efforts to modernize North Korea’s air force, which relies on warplanes sent by the Soviet Union in the 1980s .
Kim’s trip to Russia, his first since April 2019, when he met Putin in Vladivostok, came days after he attended a ceremony at a North Korean military shipyard where the country unveiled the so-called nuclear attack submarine.
State media claimed it was capable of launching tactical nuclear weapons from water. But the South Korean military has expressed doubts about the operational capabilities of the submarine, the result of transforming an existing submarine to install missile launch tubes.
Kim also announced his goal of acquiring nuclear-powered submarines, capable of silently traveling long distances and approaching enemy shores to launch strikes, a key asset in his efforts to build a viable nuclear arsenal which could threaten the United States. Analysts say such capabilities would be unachievable for the North without outside help.
Putin reiterated Friday that Russia would respect U.N. sanctions, some of which ban North Korea from exporting or importing weapons. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said separately that no bilateral military cooperation agreement had been signed after the Putin-Kim meeting on Wednesday.
Experts say North Korea and Russia are unlikely to publish arms deals to avoid greater international criticism.
Kim, whose visit to Russia is his first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic, wants to raise the profile of his partnerships with Moscow and Beijing as he tries to break international isolation and insert Pyongyang in a united front against Washington. . Some South Korean experts believe Kim could also pursue a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In another sign of the North’s post-pandemic opening, KCNA said Saturday that a team of North Korean athletes had left Pyongyang to compete in the Asian Games that begin next week in Hangzhou, China. The South Korean government says about 190 North Korean athletes are registered for the event.
Since last year, the United States has accused North Korea of supplying Russia with munitions, artillery shells and rockets, many of which are likely copies of Soviet-era munitions. South Korean officials said North Korean weapons supplied to Russia had already been used in Ukraine.