Putin welcomes Kim Jong Un with tour of rocket launch center

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The leaders of Russia and North Korea met at a remote Siberian rocket launch facility…

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The leaders of Russia and North Korea met at a remote Siberian rocket launch facility for a summit that underscores how closely the two leaders’ interests align in the face of their distinct and escalating confrontations with the United States.

The two men began their meeting with a tour of a Soyuz-2 space rocket launch facility, during which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un peppered a Russian space official with questions about the rockets.

The meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin came hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing a highly provocative campaign of North Korean weapons testing since early 2022, then that Kim used the diversion caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine to accelerate his policies. weapons development.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff did not immediately say how far the North Korean missiles traveled. The Japanese Coast Guard, citing the Tokyo Defense Ministry, said the missiles had likely already landed, but nevertheless urged ships to watch for falling objects.

The decision to meet at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s most important satellite launch facility, suggests that Kim is seeking Russian technical assistance for his efforts to develop military reconnaissance satellites, which he has described as crucial to strengthen the threat of its nuclear-capable missiles. In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly failed to put its first military spy satellite into orbit.

Official photos show Kim was accompanied by Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and Navy Admiral Kim Myong Sik, who are linked to North Korean efforts to acquire satellites spies and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Asked if Russia would help North Korea build satellites, Putin was quoted by Russian state media as saying: “That’s why we came here.” The DPRK leader shows keen interest in rocket technology. They are also trying to develop space,” using the abbreviation of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Asked about military cooperation, Putin said: “We will talk about all issues without haste. It’s time.”

Putin greeted Kim’s limousine, brought from Pyongyang on the North Korean leader’s special armored train, at the entrance to the launch facility with a handshake that lasted about 40 seconds. Putin said he was “very happy to see” Kim. Kim’s translator thanked Putin for his warm welcome, “despite being busy.”

The two leaders will hold talks after visiting the cosmodrome, Russian state media reported.

For Putin, the meeting with Kim is an opportunity to replenish munitions reserves that the 18-month war has depleted. North Korea may have tens of millions of aging artillery shells and rockets, based on Soviet designs, that could provide a huge boost to the Russian military in Ukraine, analysts say.

Kim also brought Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official in charge of arms policy who joined him on recent tours of factories producing artillery shells and missiles, according to South Korea. South.

Kim said his decision to visit Russia four years after his previous visit showed how Pyongyang “prioritizes the strategic importance” of its relations with Moscow, the North’s official news agency said on Wednesday. .

Kim is expected to seek economic aid as well as military technology. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said Russia could discuss humanitarian aid with the North Korean delegation, according to Russian news agencies.

An arms deal would violate international sanctions that Russia has supported in the past.

Lim Soo-suk, a spokesman for South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, said Seoul was maintaining communication with Moscow while closely monitoring Kim’s visit.

“No UN member state should violate Security Council sanctions against North Korea by engaging in illegal arms trade, and certainly should not engage in military cooperation with South Korea. North that undermines the peace and stability of the international community,” Lim said at a press briefing. .

The United States has accused North Korea of ​​supplying weapons to Russia, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Russian and North Korean officials have denied the claims.

Speculation about their military cooperation grew after Russian Defense Minister Shoigu visited North Korea in July. Kim then toured its weapons factories, which experts said had the dual purpose of encouraging North Korean weapons modernization and examining artillery and other supplies that could be exported to Russia.


Litvinova reported from Tallinn, Estonia. Associated Press journalists Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia; Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee in Washington; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Dake Kang and Ng Han Guan in Fangchuan, China; Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.

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