Vladimir Putin Accepts Invite to North Korea During Kim Jong-un’s Russia Tour

North Korea's Kim Jong-un laughs with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during a visit to far-
Rodong Sinmun/Government of North Korea

The governments of Russia and North Korea confirmed on Thursday that communist dictator Kim Jong-un invited Vladimir Putin to visit Pyongyang — and the strongman “accepted the invitation with pleasure.”

Kim is currently in far-east Russia, traveling by train for an entire day to reach his destination for an ongoing visit to the country. North Korea and Russia are longtime traditional allies. Kim has recently elevated the importance of the bilateral relationship in the post-pandemic era. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu became the first high-level foreign official to visit Pyongyang in July since the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic began in China in 2020. The current visit to Russia is Kim’s first trip outside his country in the same period of time and his first engagement, in person, with another head of state since his meeting with former American President Donald Trump on the mutual Korean border in June 2019.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone(DMZ) on June 30, 2019, in Panmunjom, Korea. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea’s communist dictator Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil on June 30, 2019, in Panmunjom, Korea. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Putin is believed to have visited North Korea only once before — in 2000, meeting with the current dictator’s father, Kim Jong-il, who ruled the country at the time.

His first visit under the rule of Kim Jong-un would send a message normalizing the communist rogue regime and suggest Russia has little interest in maintaining the prodigious number of international sanctions on North Korea less than a week before the start of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual high-level debate. Russia is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, which grants it veto powers over any resolutions the Council may seek to pass.

Kim’s delegation included multiple high-level military officials in addition to the usual contingent of diplomats; similarly, Shoigu appeared on the list of officials present for talks between Kim and Putin. Putin insisted following the consultations that any aerospace or other technological cooperation between Russia and North Korea was “in compliance” with the sanctions but that even with those restrictions, he considered the bilateral relations to have “potential for military cooperation.” Neither side has announced any official weapons sales, military exercise agreements, or other similar exchanges at press time, though Kim’s trip has yet to conclude.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s communist dictator Kim Jong-un speak at a rocket assembly hangar during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, Russia, on September 13, 2023. (Artyom Geodakyan, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Prior to Kim’s arrival, the South Korean Defense Ministry warned on Tuesday that “arms trade” between the two was possible.

“Considering that a large number of military personnel is accompanying him, (we) are closely monitoring whether negotiations over arms trade between North Korea and Russia, and technology transfers will take place,” ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyou said.

Kim met Putin first for a tour on Wednesday of the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far-eastern region of Amur, one of Russia’s premier space launch facilities. Putin reportedly explained, in comments to reporters, that Kim’s regime was “trying to develop space” and had a “great interest in rocket engineering,” which Moscow was open to helping North Korea explore. In response, Kim lauded the Russian military for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine and predicted that “the heroic Russian army and people will brilliantly inherit the tradition of victory, confidently demonstrate invaluable dignity and honor on the fronts of the special military operation.” Russia refers to its invasion, intended to oust democratically elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, as a “special military operation.”

Following the tour, Putin held a reception for Kim and his delegation in which Kim invited the Russian leader to his country.

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin hosts a recception for North Korea's communist dictator Kim Jong-un in far-east Russia, September 13, 2023

Russian strongman Vladimir Putin hosts a reception for North Korea’s communist dictator Kim Jong-un in far-east Russia on September 13, 2023. (Rodong Sinmun/Government of North Korea)

The North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun narrated:

Saying that he was very pleased to meet President Putin and share a significant seat full of comradely friendship by visiting the Russian Federation again in four years and five months, [Kim Jong-un] expressed his thanks to President Putin and officials concerned from the capital and of the Far Eastern Region for making great efforts to ensure his successful visit.

“At the end of the reception, Kim Jong Un courteously invited Putin to visit the DPRK at a convenient time,” the newspaper continued, using the acronym for North Korea’s name for itself, the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

“Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship,” it noted.

Top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who was reportedly present for the talks between Putin and Kim on Wednesday, confirmed Thursday that the North Korean version of events was correct, and Putin “accepted the invitation with gratitude.”

“Everything will be further coordinated via diplomatic channels,” he added, according to the Russian news agency Tass. Given the recentness of the invitation, neither side has offered details on when such a visit would happen or what events it would entail, but Peskov did offer that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was planning to visit Pyongyang in October for further planning.

Elsewhere, in remarks to reporters on Thursday, Peskov said that Kim’s visit to Russia was “timely, useful, and constructive” and that Kim will remain in Russia for other engagements for an undisclosed amount of time but will not meet with Putin again. Peskov did not say when Kim would return home as “it would be impolite for us to speak for the North Korean side. That’s their privilege.”

North Korea's Kim Jong-un laughs with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during a visit to far-east Russia on September 13, 2023.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un laughs with Russian leader Vladimir Putin during a visit to far-east Russia on September 13, 2023. (Rodong Sinmun/Government of North Korea)

The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported on Thursday, citing anonymous “sources,” that Kim’s green train, which he used to travel to Russia, appeared to be moving further east on Thursday, apparently towards the city of Khabarovsk-on-Amur:

According to the sources, Kim’s olive green, bullet-proof train appears headed toward the Russian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where he will visit an aircraft factory, following his meeting with Putin held Wednesday at the Vostochny spaceport where he pledged full support for Russia.

The agency noted that the travel direct appeared to contradict comments by Putin that Kim would be taking a flight for an eventual stop in Vladivostok, the city where Kim and Putin last met in 2019.

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