Vladimir Putin Expected to Make Whirlwind North Korea Trip

Kim Jong Un - Vladimir Putin meeting in Russia
Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The communist regime of North Korea confirmed on Monday that Russian strongman Vladimir Putin is expected to arrive in Pyongyang on Tuesday for a brief but intensive two-day stop.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) described Putin’s stop as a “state visit” and said Putin would be visiting after accepting an invitation from dictator Kim Jong-un. Kim invited Putin to his national capital during a visit to Vladivostok, eastern Russia, in September.

“Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK [North Korea] friendship,” North Korean state media reported at the time. Top Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed at the time that Putin “accepted the invitation with gratitude” but offered no details on when the visit might occur.

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).

Yury Ushakov, one of Putin’s top foreign policy aides, told reporters on Monday that the leader’s itinerary in North Korea will be “very intensive,” as Putin will likely arrive late on Tuesday, so most of the diplomatic engagements on his calendar will take place only on Wednesday.

Conversations with Kim, Ushakov said, will touch “various areas of the economy, energy, transport, agriculture, interregional relations, security issues, issues of cooperation in the international arena, and so on,” according to the Russian news outlet Tass.

Ties between Russia and North Korea have warmed significantly in the past decade and appear to have accelerated in the past five years. Russia has often supported North Korean interests at the United Nations, while North Korean officials have vocally supported Russia’s international agenda, including Moscow’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

“I am deeply convinced 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,” Kim Jong-un said during his meeting with Putin in September. Russia refers to its full-scale invasion of Ukraine as a “special” operation to “de-Nazify” Kyiv, a framing North Korea echoes.

More recently, the state newspaper of North Korea, Rodong Sinmun, published a screed condemning Ukraine for organizing a “peace summit” in Switzerland and not inviting invading Russia.

“With the approach of the summit, the world community is censuring the sinister intention of the U.S., the West and the [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelenskiy puppet clique to trickily abuse the desire of humankind for peace,” Rodong Sinmun railed. “The ‘world summit on peace’ is a product of the sinister political plot of the master and servant to pave the way for revival.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Pyongyang has also made multiple symbolic gestures in the past four years indicating a willingness to elevate its relationship with the Putin regime. Kim’s visit to Vladivostok — made aboard a highly fortified train that took nearly a day to get to its destination — was his first known departure from the country since the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. The encounter was Kim’s second trip to Vladivostok after meeting Putin for the first time in the city in April 2019 in a “candid” encounter featuring hours of conversation and an exchange of ceremonial swords.

The 2023 Vladivostok trip preceded Kim welcoming Russian officials, alongside Chinese counterparts, to Pyongyang in July, the first time since 2019 that foreign delegations had been invited to the country.

Putin, in turn, has only been in North Korea once since becoming the leader of Russia. The president traveled to Pyongyang in 2000 to meet with then-dictator Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un’s father. The visit did not significantly accelerate the bilateral relationship in a public way, however, and Kim Jong-un has much more visibly prioritized expanding the country’s cooperation with Russia than his father.

Before Kim Jong-il, the founder of communist North Korea, Kim Il-sung, held the former Soviet Union as one of North Korea’s closest allies — second only to China, which fought in the active hostilities of the technically ongoing Korean War.

Unnamed South Korean officials expressed concern in comments to the South Korean newspaper Korea JoongAng Daily on Monday that Kim may convince Putin to restore some of the agreements between Pyongyang and the old Soviet Union that vanished after the fall of the latter communist state.

“Cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang could become as close as it was in 1961,” one source, identified as a “South Korean intelligence official,” lamented. JoongAng clarified that, at the time, North Korea and the Soviet Union had cut a deal for “automatic military intervention in the event of an emergency” in either country. That agreement was dissolved in 1996 and replaced with deals with Russia that did not contain automatic military action provisions.

South Korean Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yul said in an interview with the news organization Yonhap that Seoul reached out to Moscow before Putin’s visit and “made it clear that discussions between North Korea and Russia should not be conducted in a way that undermines peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.