Kim Jong Un has told President Vladimir Putin that he was sure Russia would win a “great victory” over its enemies, as Ukraine’s Western allies warned of a possible Russian arms agreement with North Korea.
“We are confident that the Russian army and people will win a great victory in the just fight to punish evil groups who pursue hegemony, expansion, and ambition,” Kim told Putin on Wednesday, raising a toast during an official dinner following one-on-one talks.
Kim also praised the “heroic” Russian army in comments that news agencies sponsored by Moscow interpreted as relating specifically to Moscow’s large-scale military operation in Ukraine.
Putin meanwhile praised “the future strengthening of cooperation and friendship between our countries,” while hosting Kim at a Far East spaceport, and later told reporters he saw “possibilities” for military cooperation with North Korea.
He had earlier said Moscow could help Pyongyang build satellites and suggested the countries might also discuss military cooperation.
US officials and experts have said Russia is interested in buying North Korean ammunition to use in Ukraine.
Both leaders affirmed historical ties between Moscow and Pyongyang.
“We will always be with Russia,” Kim said, according to footage broadcast on Russian TV.
“An old friend is better than two new ones,” Putin said, quoting a Russian proverb and referencing the Soviet Union’s role in the Korean War.
Their talks as well as discussions with delegations lasted around two hours before the leaders proceeded to the official dinner in Kim’s honour.
Kim will later oversee a display of the potential of Russia’s Pacific fleet in Vladivostok, Putin announced.
The two then toured assembly and launch facilities for the Angara and Soyuz-2 space rocket launchers before sitting down for talks with their delegations.
The two leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, with footage released by the Kremlin showing the pair shaking hands enthusiastically as Kim arrived.
While Kim was in Russia, Pyongyang fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, the latest in a string of sanctions-busting tests.
Experts say Russia will likely use the talks to seek artillery shells and antitank missiles from North Korea, which wants advanced satellite and nuclear-powered submarine technology in return.
Kim, who travelled overland to Russia in his bullet-proof train, was accompanied by an entourage that suggested the summit would have a strong military focus.
Among the top military officials accompanying Kim were Korean People’s Army Marshal Pak Jong Chon and Munitions Industry Department Director Jo Chun Ryong, according to the North’s state media.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu took part in the talks with Kim, as did Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, images on Russian state television showed.
Kim thanked Putin for inviting him to visit, despite the Russian leader’s “busy schedule”.
Kim had earlier stressed the trip — his first post-pandemic foreign travel — showed North Korea was “prioritising the strategic importance” of its Russia ties.