North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been given a guided tour of an aviation factory producing Russia’s most modern fighter jets, in a further indication of his interest in sophisticated weaponry.
After being given a red carpet welcome at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur station, Kim was taken to the Komsomolsk aviation plant, named after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space.
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The plant produces Russia’s most modern fighter jets, including the Su-35 and Su-57, as well as civil aircraft.
Kim watched a demonstration flight of the Su-35.
“Our fathers and grandfathers fought together against Japanese militarism, our country supported North Korea in its fight against the United States’ imperialist ambitions in the 1950s, and today we jointly stand up to the pressure of the collective West,” regional Governor Mikhail Degtyarev wrote on Twitter.
Photos showed Kim peering into the fighter cockpit as a pilot sitting inside explained the various controls.
The North Korean leader is expected next in Vladivostok where he will view the Russian navy’s Pacific Fleet.
Kim began his Russian visit by holding talks with President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome – Russia’s most modern space launch facility – amid concerns that he might be prepared to send arms to Moscow in exchange for military technology to help his continuing military modernisation programme.
Western leaders and neighbouring Japan and South Korea have expressed concern about a possible deal, noting it would contravene United Nations Security Council sanctions.
On Friday, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin told reporters that the government was considering viable options for independent sanctions over the issue, according to the Yonhap news agency.
While there has been no official statement on the outcome of the talks between the two men, Putin indicated earlier this week that Russia would be prepared to help North Korea with satellite development.
North Korea has struggled to put into space an operational spy satellite to monitor US and South Korean military movements, with two launch attempts this year ending in failure. Officials have said they may try again next month.
On Thursday evening, the national security advisers of the US, South Korea and Japan talked by phone and expressed “serious concerns” about prospective weapons deals between Russia and North Korea. They warned the two countries would “pay a clear price” if they went ahead with such deals, according to South Korea’s presidential office.
The White House said the three national security advisers noted that any arms export from North Korea to Russia would directly violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions, including resolutions that Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, had voted to adopt.
Some analysts question whether Russia would be willing to share its most sophisticated weapons technologies with North Korea in return for conventional arms.
But others say Russia might be willing because of the urgent need it is facing after 18 months of war in Ukraine.