Kim visits military aviation plant in Russia’s far east


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a historic visit to a military aviation factory in Russia’s far east today, shortly after his summit with President Vladimir Putin. This visit, amidst ongoing global sanctions on both nations, has raised concerns among allies of Kyiv regarding potential arms agreements.

Two days after meeting with Putin at a spaceport, Kim arrived in Komsomolsk-on-Amur aboard his bullet-proof train. He was greeted with a warm reception, including flowers, music, a dance performance, and ceremonial loaves of bread, according to the Interfax agency.

Kim, who rarely leaves North Korea, arrived in the Russian industrial center to tour a military and civil aviation firm. While North Korea seeks Moscow’s assistance in developing its missile program, U.S. officials and experts speculate that Russia may be interested in acquiring North Korean ammunition for use in Ukraine.

The TASS news agency reported that Kim visited an aviation plant named after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, renowned as the first person in space. This facility is responsible for producing Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35 and Su-57 fighter aircraft.

Upon his train’s arrival in Russia earlier this week, Kim was presented with a signed photo of Gagarin at the border.

Kim held discussions with Putin at the Vostochny cosmodrome on Wednesday. Following their meeting, Putin announced on television that Kim would be visiting factories producing civilian and combat aviation equipment in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. He also mentioned Kim’s plans to oversee a display of Russian warships in Vladivostok, emphasizing the military component of the visit.

Putin disclosed that Kim’s itinerary includes visits to the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok and the Russian Academy of Sciences, where he would explore laboratories focused on marine biology. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov revealed that Kim’s visit to the far east would extend over several more days.

In a significant development, the Kremlin confirmed that Putin had accepted Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea, further underscoring efforts to strengthen alliances with leaders who have faced isolation from the West.

During their summit, Putin exchanged gifts with Kim. Peskov disclosed that Putin had given Kim a rifle of the highest quality from Russian production, and in return, Kim presented Putin with a North Korean-made rifle. Additionally, Putin gifted the North Korean leader a “glove from a space suit that has been to space several times.”

Moscow intends to expedite preparations for Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s trip to Pyongyang, anticipated in October, as a precursor to arranging Putin’s visit. This would mark Putin’s second visit to North Korea, the first being in July 2000 when he met Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il.

This visit by Kim to Russia is his first official trip abroad since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Both nations continue to grapple with a barrage of sanctions, and Kim’s visit has spurred concerns about potential clandestine arms agreements.

Kim is accompanied by a sizeable military delegation, while top Russian military officials also participated in the talks with Putin. After their summit, Putin expressed his belief in the possibilities for military cooperation, drawing the attention of Western countries, who cautioned against any arms deals between Moscow and Pyongyang amid the ongoing Ukraine conflict.

The White House issued a statement on Thursday confirming that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had engaged in discussions with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts regarding the Putin-Kim meeting. They stressed that any arms exports from North Korea to Russia would directly violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, including those that Russia itself had voted to adopt.

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