Talks between North Korea’s Kim and Putin end in Russia: What did they say?

The pair were expected to discuss arms deals as the Ukraine war rages. Their public comments signal deep ties.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un
Russian President Putin shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim during a meeting at the Vostochny Сosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region [Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik/Pool via Reuters]

A meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who rarely travels outside his country, and President Vladimir Putin in Russia lasted about five hours and wrapped up on Wednesday, Russian media outlets have reported.

The pair, arguably the world’s most isolated leaders, had not met since 2019.

They hailed one another as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine continues, lauding their “comradeship” as Western sanctions against both of their nations persist.

The two leaders met at Russia’s most important satellite launch centre, the Vostochny Cosmodrome. North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast, just an hour before Kim met Putin.

Asked whether the two leaders would talk about obtaining supplies from North Korea to replenish Moscow’s dwindling stock of weapons and ammunition, Putin said they would discuss “all issues”.

Washington and its allies believe defence cooperation was the priority of the meeting; speculation about military cooperation grew after Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea in July.

Here’s what they have said so far about the talks, in public remarks:

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un visit the Vostochny Сosmodrome
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un visit the Vostochny Сosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region, Russia [Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik/Pool via Reuters]

Speculation the talks were aimed at weapons deals: ‘All issues’ on the table

The pair would discuss “all issues”, Putin said, when asked if the two leaders would talk about getting supplies from North Korea.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, commenting on media speculation about a possible weapons exchange, said the West had breached many contractual obligations by sending Soviet-era weaponry to Ukraine, Reuters news agency reported.

Kim did not openly speak about a possible weapons deal, which is the subject of intense scrutiny and fear in the Asia Pacific and West.

The White House warned last week that North Korea would “pay a price” if it supplied Russia with weaponry for the conflict in Ukraine.

Ukraine war and tensions with the West: Russia’s ‘just fight against hegemonic forces’

Kim promised support for Russia’s “just fight”, backing Moscow’s efforts to defend its interests.

The comment was viewed as an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.

“Russia is currently engaged in a just fight against hegemonic forces to defend its sovereign rights, security and interests. I take this opportunity to affirm that we will always stand with Russia on the anti-imperialist front and the front of independence.

“We believe with certainty that the Russian army and people will achieve a great victory in the just fight to punish the evil forces pursuing hegemonic and expansionary ambitions and create a stable environment for national development.”

Pleasantries and promises: ‘We will always support the decisions of President Putin’

Putin welcomed Kim to the cosmodrome, saying: “Dear Mr Chairman, I am very glad to see and welcome you again in Russia – this time, as we agreed, at our Vostochny Cosmodrome.

“We are proud of how this sector is developing here, and this is our new facility. I hope both you and your colleagues find this interesting.

“We, of course, need to talk about questions of economic cooperation and questions of a humanitarian nature. We have a lot of questions. I want to say that I am very glad to see you. Thank you for accepting the invitation and coming to Russia.”

Kim replied, “I express my gratitude to you for paying such attention to our visit to Russia.

“We were also able to see with our own eyes the present and future of Russia in the construction of a space power. And we are holding a meeting with you at a very special time, right in the heart of a space power, Russia.

“As you said, the Soviet Union played a very big role in the liberation of our country, as well as in the independence of our state, and our friendship has deep roots. And now, relations with the Russian Federation are the very first priority for our country. I am sure that our meeting will be the next step to take relations to a new level.

“Now Russia has risen to the sacred fight to protect its sovereignty and security against the hegemonic forces that oppose Russia. And now we want to further develop the relationship.

“We will always support the decisions of President Putin and the Russian leadership … I also hope that we will always be together in the fight against imperialism and for the construction of a sovereign state.”

Satellites and space: ‘The first space conquerors’

While Putin said the “leader of the DPRK [North Korea] shows great interest in rocket engineering; they are also trying to develop space”, Kim was quoted as saying. He said he found it an “honour” to meet at the launch station, while he lauded Russia as a “space superpower”.

“The glory to Russia, which gave birth to the first space conquerors, will be immortal,” Kim said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies