North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected Russia’s nuclear-capable bombers and a warship in its Pacific fleet on Saturday as he continued a trip in Russia’s Far East.
The images have sparked Western concerns about an arms alliance that could fuel Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine.
After arriving in the city of Artyom by train, Kim traveled to an airport just outside the port city of Vladivostok where Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior military officials gave him an close-up look at Russia’s strategic bombers and other warplanes.
All types of Russian warplanes shown to Kim on Saturday were among those that have seen active use in the war in Ukraine.
The North Korean leader has previously pledged his “full and unconditional support” for Russia’s “sacred fight” to defend its security interests when he met Vladimir Putin earlier this week.
Mr. Kim’s visit to Vladivostok was another possible hint at what he wants from Russia, perhaps in exchange for supplying munitions to refill Putin’s declining reserves as his invasion of Ukraine becomes a drawn-out war of attrition.
The visit to Russia, which included more than four hours of talks with Putin on Wednesday, comes amid momentum in military cooperation between the countries in which North Korea could potentially seek Russian technologies to advance Kim’s nuclear, missile and other military programs in exchange for providing Russia with badly needed munitions.
Experts have said potential military cooperation between the countries could include efforts to modernize North Korea’s outdated air force, which relies on warplanes sent from the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
The visit to Russia is the North Korean leader’s first foreign trip since the pandemic, with Kim Jong Un eager to boost the visibility of his relationships with Moscow and Beijing.
Some experts say that Kim could also soon pursue a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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