North Korea’s Kim may soon meet with Putin in Russia for arms talks

North Korea’s Kim may soon meet with Putin in Russia for arms talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may travel to Russia for talks with President Vladimir Putin over the possible sale of arms to support Moscow’s war in Ukraine, the White House said Monday, as the two U.S. adversaries continue to strengthen ties.

U.S. officials say potential arms sales from North Korea to Russia were discussed during a trip to Pyongyang in July by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the first such visit by a Russian defense minister since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“We have information that Kim Jong Un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

The Kremlin said Tuesday that it could not confirm the reports. “We have nothing to say on this topic,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a news briefing.

Watson did not say when or where in Russia Putin might meet with Kim, who rarely leaves his isolated Communist country and has not ventured abroad since before the pandemic. When he does go overseas, as when he first visited Russia in 2019, he usually travels by armored train.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un usually travels abroad by armored train.Nhac Nguyen / AFP via Getty Images file

Watson added that the U.S. urges North Korea “to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.”

The comments from the White House National Security Council came after a report in The New York Times that Kim is planning to meet with Putin in Russia this month — likely in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok.

Last week, the White House said arms negotiations between North Korea and Russia were “actively advancing,” and that Kim and Putin had exchanged letters pledging to increase their cooperation following Shoigu’s visit.

Artillery munitions are likely to be a particular focus, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, as Russian forces struggle to hold off a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would violate multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.

Kirby did not say how the United States obtained the intelligence, which had been declassified. The exchange of letters was also reported last month by North Korean state media.

Kim Jong Un,Sergei Shoigu
Kim, second right, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, third from right, at an arms exhibition in Pyongyang in July.KCNA / AP

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, U.S. officials have routinely released declassified intelligence in an effort to deter North Korea, China and others from secretly sending weapons to Moscow. Both North Korea and China have denied the U.S. accusations.

With U.S. talks over his nuclear weapons and missile programs stalled since 2019, Kim has sought to strengthen his relations with Russia as well as China, which also sent a high-level delegation to Pyongyang in July.

Shoigu said Monday that Russia and North Korea might hold joint military drills.

“We are discussing it with everyone, including DPRK,” he said, using an acronym for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “Why not? They are our neighbors.”

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