Here's what happened in Kim Jong Un's meeting with Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea today. Russia announced that Kim would be attending the summit between two authoritarians. However, details about the timing and location of the meeting were kept secret until Kim arrived in Pyongyang on his armored car after a 2-day journey. NPR’s Charles Maynes reports from Moscow that each leader is looking to gain something from the other.



CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Kim’s state visit came at Putin’s invitation. The setting was designed to impress, as soon as it was revealed. North Korea had recently failed to place its own spy satellites into orbit, so Putin chose the venue of Russia’s new Vostochny Cosmodrome for the summit, welcoming Kim with a warm handshake and, later, a personal tour.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: As Putin looked on, officials from Roscosmos, the Russian space agency told Kim about the latest in Russian space technology. Before Kim’s visit, Putin had told reporters that Russia would assist North Korea in its quest to launch a space satellite. Putin said that’s the reason we’re in North Korea. The North Korean leader expressed a great interest in rocketry. Kim, in turn, was full of praises for his host. Through an interpreter, Kim toasted Putin’s health…

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAIRS MOVING)

MAYNES: Through an interpreter, Kim toasted Putin’s health…

(SOUNDBITE OF CHAIRS MOVING).

MAYNES: Through an interpretation, Kim toasted the health of his host. The day ended with a state dinner and remarks from both leaders.

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SUPREME LEADER KIM JONG UN: (Speaking Korean).

MAYNES: Through an interpreter, Kim toasted Putin’s health…

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MAYNES: …And the crowd rose to its feet as Kim called for a Russian victory in Ukraine and offered assurances of North Korean solidarity in Moscow’s struggle to protect what he called the sovereign right of security.

KONSTANTIN ASMOLOV: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: Reached by phone, analyst Konstantin Asmolov of the Center for the Study of China and Modern Asia in Moscow, calls the gathering an important event. He said it showed that Moscow and Pyongyang could find creative ways to work together in the face of what he called the collective West. Moreover, a Asmolov says it’s a partnership forged not only from the war in Ukraine, but North Korea’s own concerns over new trilateral alliance between the U.S., Japan and South Korea unveiled in Washington last month.

ASMOLOV: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: “This is a reaction,” said Asmolov, “to the formation of South Korea’s new power triangle.” Asmolov: (Non-English language spoken).

MAYNES: “This is a reaction,” said Asmolov, “to the formation of South Korea’s new power triangle.” North Korea faces multiple sanctions because of its illegal nuclear and missile programs. Western officials are concerned that Russia could offer advanced rocketry technology in exchange for North Korea’s huge munitions store to replenish their arms for the Ukraine war. But if such a deal was struck, the terms remain out of the public eye.

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PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: In comments to state media after the summit concluded, Putin acknowledged Russia faced, quote, “certain restrictions” from the U.N. but that possibilities for military cooperation with North Korea existed.

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PUTIN: (Speaking Russian).

MAYNES: “There are things, of course, we can talk about,” said Putin, “and we’re discussing the prospects within the existing rules,” a comment likely to induce some anxiety in South Korea, Ukraine and elsewhere given the stakes at play.

Yet even as Putin was praising deepening ties with North Korea, he insisted it was too early to judge the ultimate outcome of Kim’s visit. Kim will now visit the Pacific Fleet and other Russian aviation facilities, including military aviation. Having arrived to Russia’s premier Cosmodrome direct by train and under cover of night, the North Korean leader’s meandering journey home is as close as he gets to taking the scenic view.

Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.

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