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Putin praises Kim Jong Un’s support for Ukraine war as he heads to North Korea

SEOUL, South Korea — Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea on Tuesday for a rare visit to the reclusive communist state as he seeks support from leader Kim Jong Un in his war against Ukraine.

Putin’s two-day visit, his first to North Korea in 24 years, comes as North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea for the second time this month – here, attracting warning shots from South Korean soldiers.

In a letter published Tuesday in Rodong Sinmun, mouthpiece of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Putin expressed gratitude for North Korea’s support for what he called the “special military operation” of Russia in Ukraine.

He said he would, in turn, support North Korea’s efforts to defend its interests in the face of what he called decades of “US economic pressure, provocation, blackmail and military threats.”

Putin also hinted at what appears to be the two countries’ growing alignment of animosity toward the West, concerned about the transfer of weapons and intelligence that could fuel Putin’s Ukraine ambitions and Kim’s dreams. to become an internationally recognized nuclear state.

Russian state media reported on Tuesday that the two countries would sign a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement during Putin’s visit. Yuri Ushakov, Putin’s foreign policy adviser, said earlier that the deal “will not be directed against any country but aims to ensure greater stability in the Northeast Asian region.”

North Korea has long been under UN Security Council sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, while Russia is also increasingly isolated by Western sanctions linked to his war in Ukraine. North Korea is seen as a key source of military support for replenishing Russia’s depleting arsenal.

A large poster of Putin was displayed on a street in North Korea ahead of his visit on Tuesday.RIAKremlinpool via Telegram

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Monday that Putin had become “incredibly desperate over the past few months” amid setbacks in Ukraine and was seeking help from North Korea and Iran. He said North Korea had illegally transferred dozens of ballistic missiles and more than 11,000 munitions containers to Russia in recent months.

Both countries have denied any arms transfers, which would constitute a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesperson said before the visit that cooperation between Russia and North Korea should not violate U.N. Security Council resolutions and conveyed that message to Russia.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Monday rejected what he called a “lonely affair” between Kim and Putin. He told Agence France-Presse that the best way to respond was to “continue to strengthen the diplomatic coalition for a just and lasting peace in Ukraine” and provide more Western air defense systems and weapons.

Although they will likely continue their denials, North Korea and Russia “have notably moved from hiding their illicit activities to showing cooperation,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Women’s University. from Seoul.

“Putin’s visit is aimed in part at thanking North Korea for acting as an ‘arsenal for autocracy’ by supporting its illegal invasion of Ukraine,” he said in an email.

The visit also allows North Korean state media to portray Kim as a world leader, Easley added. This follows a visit by Kim last September to the Russian Far East, where he toured a Russian spaceport and where Putin suggested Russia could help North Korea develop satellites.

Last week, Kim boasted of ties between the two countries, saying North Korea was an “invincible comrade in arms” with Russia in a message to Putin on Russian National Day.

Ushakov said Monday that Putin’s visit to North Korea would include one-on-one talks, a state reception, an honor guard and a media statement. Other members of the delegation include Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Defense Minister Andrei Belousov and the head of the Russian space agency.

Hours before Putin’s arrival, South Korean officials said at least 30 North Korean soldiers had illegally crossed the military demarcation line within the demilitarized zone, which separates North and South Korea. South. Technically, the two countries are still at war after the Korean War (1950-1953) ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.

North Korean soldiers are working at an undisclosed location near the border, images released Tuesday from a South Korean position show. P.A.

North Korean soldiers, some of whom were heavily armed, retreated to the North Korean side when the South Korean military broadcast warning messages and fired warning shots, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said -Korean.

The border crossing took place at a different location than a similar brief intrusion on June 9 that South Korean authorities said was also not deliberate.

On both occasions, North Korean soldiers carried out various operations along the border, including laying mines, erecting walls and building roads for military operations, South Korean officials said. Such work has been underway since November, when North Korea announced the suspension of a 2018 military deal aimed at reducing tensions between the two Koreas.

South Korea announced this month that it was also suspending the deal entirely in response to a series of trash-filled balloons sent from the North to the South.

South Korean officials said Tuesday they believed there were many casualties among North Korean soldiers due to North Korean landmines exploding along the border.

“North Korean soldiers unreasonably continue their work despite these accidents and losses,” they said.

Stella Kim reported from Seoul, South Korea, and Mithil Aggarwal from Hong Kong.

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