Kim pledges ‘full support’ for Russia in Ukraine as Putin visits Pyongyang

Russian president tells Kim Jong Un he appreciates North Korean support over Ukraine as two countries deepen ties.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised “full support and solidarity” for Russia’s war in Ukraine as President Vladimir Putin made his first visit to Pyongyang in 24 years and said the two countries were fighting the “hegemonic and imperialist policy” of the United States and its allies.

Relations between the two countries have grown closer since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine amid rising concern that Pyongyang is providing Russia with weapons in return for Russian technological expertise.

Russia and North Korea have denied arms transfers but have promised to strengthen military ties.

Putin on Wednesday thanked Kim for “unwavering” support on Ukraine, and the two announced a new comprehensive strategic partnership treaty although no details of its contents were released. Earlier this week, the Kremlin said the pact would replace previous bilateral documents and declarations signed in 1961, 2000 and 2001.

Speaking after his meeting with Kim, Putin said the new agreement was defensive in nature and included a promise of “mutual assistance” if either side were attacked, Russian news agencies reported. The Russian president said it would take ties to a “new level”.

Red carpet welcome

Putin had landed in the North Korean capital before dawn and Kim was waiting to greet him despite the early hour.

The two men shook hands and hugged while a woman in a traditional Korean hanbok presented Putin with a bouquet of red roses.

Kim then joined Putin in his limousine as they travelled together in a motorcade, along streets decorated with the Russian flag and portraits of the Russian leader, to the Kumsusan state guesthouse.

They attended an official welcoming ceremony in Kim Il Sung Square, with rows of soldiers standing to attention and crowds of children lined up in the square, which had been decorated with banners and balloons.

Earlier, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA, described the two leaders’ meeting as a historic event that showed the “invincibility and durability” of the friendship and unity between North Korea and Russia.

The two countries’ relations had “emerged as a strong strategic fortress for preserving international justice, peace and security and an engine for accelerating the building of a new multi-polar world”, it added.

Putin and Kim walk in Kim Il Sung square as young children hold balloons and wave Russian and North Korean flags.
North Korea gave Putin a lavish welcome, with crowds assembled in Kim Il Sung Square to applaud the Russian president [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik via AFP]

Putin and Kim last met in eastern Russia in September 2023.

Putin was accompanied by several top officials, including Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Deputy Prime Minister Denis Mantrurov.

Concerns about weapons

North Korea has been under strict United Nations Security Council sanctions for years over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes. Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the US and its allies over the invasion of Ukraine.

Along with China, North Korea’s main ally, Russia has repeatedly blocked US-led efforts to impose new UN sanctions over North Korea’s weapons tests and satellite launches.

In March, a Russian veto ended monitoring of UN sanctions, prompting Western accusations that Moscow was seeking to avoid scrutiny as it buys weapons from Pyongyang for use in Ukraine. US and South Korean officials have said they are discussing options for a new mechanism for monitoring Pyongyang.

In Washington, DC, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s visit to North Korea illustrated how Russia tried, “in desperation, to develop and to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine”.

“North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia … and other weapons for use in Ukraine. Iran has been providing weaponry, including drones, that have been used against civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Blinken told reporters following a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg reiterated concerns about the “potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programmes”.

The motorcade taking Putin and Kim into the city. Outriders in formation are in front. It is dark so the vehicles all have their lights on. There is a large billboard behind depicting Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung
The leaders travelled in a motorcade along the streets of Pyongyang [Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik via Reuters]

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have risen in recent months amid weapons tests in North Korea and large-scale military exercises in South Korea.

A 2018 military agreement between the two countries fell apart last year and Pyongyang has been beefing up its defences at the border.

South Korea said on Tuesday that its forces had to fire warning shots after North Korean soldiers involved in laying mines and other activities crossed the border, apparently by mistake. A similar incident occurred on June 9.

Putin is expected to reach Vietnam’s Hanoi on Wednesday night, where he is set to get a warm welcome despite the US condemning the country for planning to host the Russian leader.

That makes the Hanoi stop of Putin’s tour especially important for the Russian leader, said Alexander Vuving of the Hawaii-based Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies