Putin Welcomes Kim Jong Un At Cosmodrome Amid Aligning Interests


Putin welcomed Kim as he entered a building for the assembly of launch vehicles. Putin greeted Kim by shaking his hand and expressing that he was pleased to have him there. Kim’s translator thanked Putin for the warm welcome, “despite being busy.” The two leaders will inspect the cosmodrome and then sit down for talks, Russian state media reported.

Hours earlier, North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the sea, extending a highly provocative run in North Korean weapons testing since the start of 2022, as Kim used the distraction caused by Putin’s war on Ukraine to accelerate his weapons development.

For Putin, the meeting with Kim is an opportunity to refill ammunition stores that the 18-month-old war has drained. Kim sees it as a way to avoid crippling U.N. sanction and years of diplomatic isolate. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of South Korea did not immediately know how far North Korean missiles had flown. Japan’s Coast Guard, citing Tokyo’s Defense Ministry, said the missiles have likely already landed but still urged vessels to watch for falling objects.

Kim’s personal train stopped in Khasan, a station on the Russia-North Korea border, early Tuesday where it was met by a military honor guard and a brass band. On a red carpet, he was welcomed by the regional governor. According to North Korean state-run media and a video on social media, Oleg Kozhemyako, and Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov were present. North Korea fired off two ballistic rockets Wednesday as Kim Jong Un rode through Russia in an armored car on his way to a meeting with Vladimir Putin. The letters said, “North Korea fired two ballistic rockets ahead of meeting between North Korea & Russia. The Russian delegation will include Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister of Russia. Peskov confirmed that Kim’s delegation includes Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui and his top military officials including Korean People’s Army Marshals Ri Pyong Chol and Pak Jong Chon as well as Defense Ministry Kang Sun Nam. The Korean Central News Agency said Kim then left for his destination, but it didn’t specify where.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will be part of the Russian delegation, Peskov said.

Kim’s delegation includes Foreign Minister Choe Sun Hui and his top military officials, including Korean People’s Army Marshals Ri Pyong Chol and Pak Jong Chon and Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam.

Other officials identified in North Korean state media photos along his trip could hint at what Kim might seek from Putin and what he would be willing to give.

One is Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official in charge of munitions policies who joined him on recent tours of factories producing artillery shells and missiles, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Also identified in photos were Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and navy Adm. Kim Myong Sik, who are linked with North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines. Experts say North Korea would struggle to acquire such capabilities without external help, although it’s not clear if Russia would share such sensitive technology.

North Korea may have tens of millions of aging artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could give a huge boost to the Russian army in Ukraine, analysts say. According to Russian news agencies, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that Russia may discuss humanitarian aid with the North Korean delegation. The United States accused North Korea for providing Russia with weapons, including selling artillery to the Russian mercenary organization Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials denied such claims.

Speculation about their military cooperation grew after Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, visited North Korea in July. Kim subsequently toured his weapons factories, which experts said had the dual goal of encouraging the modernization of North Korean weaponry and examining artillery and other supplies that could be exported to Russia.

Associated Press journalists Jim Heintz and Daria Litvinova in Tallinn, Estonia; Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee in Washington; Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Dake Kang and Ng Han Guan in Fangchuan, China; Haruka Nuga and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo; and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed.