During his trip to Russia on Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un examined weapons together with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. A Defense Ministry video showed Kim and Shoigu smiling as they inspected some of Russia's most advanced nuclear bombers at the Knevichi airfield near Vladivostok. Kim had previously been received with a guard of honor in the eastern Siberian port city of Shoigu.
Kim has been visiting Russia since Tuesday, his first official trip abroad since the corona pandemic. On Wednesday he met Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny cosmodrome in eastern Russia. On Friday, the North Korean leader visited a Russian aircraft factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where Sukhoi Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets are built.
At the Knevichi airfield, Kim was shown Tu-160, Tu-95MS and TU-22M3 strategic bombers. "The aircraft form the air component of the Russian strategic nuclear force," said the Defense Ministry in Moscow.
The footage distributed by the Russian Defense Ministry shows Kim listening intently to the words of a senior Russian military official. The North Korean ruler also looked at fighter jets and an air-launched hypersonic missile system of the Kinschal type. Then Kim and Shoigu boarded the Marshal Shaposhnikov, an anti-submarine destroyer. Russian naval chief Nikolai Yevmenov explained to them what weapons the warship was carrying.
Kim was also expected at a university. Universities in the Russian Far East have traditionally accepted students from North Korea. The program also included a visit to marine biology laboratories at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Putin is trying to strengthen his country's ties with Russia's allies. The West fears that Russia wants to buy armaments from North Korea for its offensive in Ukraine. At the same time, North Korea is suspected of wanting to acquire technologies from Russia for its nuclear and missile programs.
Putin and Kim's symbolic exchange of rifles as gifts at the Vostochny cosmodrome fueled speculation. After the meeting, Putin spoke of “possibilities” of military cooperation between Russia and North Korea. However, his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that the two countries had not signed any agreements during Kim's visit.
Such cooperation would be "quite disturbing and would potentially violate several UN Security Council resolutions," said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.
Russia initially turned to Iran to obtain hundreds of drones from there. Pyongyang has large stocks of Soviet material and produces large quantities of conventional weapons - so Moscow would find useful resources in North Korea. In particular, Russia could be interested in 122 mm caliber rockets for the Soviet-era BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher, which are present in the North Korean arsenal.
In return, North Korea, which is subject to massive international sanctions because of its nuclear and missile programs, could supply itself with gasoline and food from Russia and even gain access to Russian space technologies. Moscow mentioned possible help with satellite production. This year, two North Korean attempts to send a military spy satellite into space failed.