Putin has arrived in North Korea

After last week's previews, confirmation has arrived from the Kremlin: Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea this morning for a two-day visit. The Kremlin said Putin will also travel to Hanoi, Vietnam, on June 19 and 20 where he will discuss “prospects for the development of a strategic partnership in the fields of trade, economic, scientific, technological, and humanitarian relations.” This is the Russian president's first trip to the Asian country in over twenty years, since his meeting with Kim Jong-il, father of the current North Korean leader, in 2000. After the start of the war in Ukraine, the collaboration between Moscow and Pyongyang has become increasingly stronger, causing great concern in the international community. According to CNN, the Russian president's visit serves to further consolidate the partnership between the two countries, based on their common opposition to the West and Putin's need for military support to continue the war in Ukraine. Agence France-Presse reports that Putin is accompanied by a large delegation of government ministers and advisors, including those responsible for the Russian army and arms procurement. They include new Defense Minister Andrey Belousov and Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who oversees the defense sector. Russian presidential foreign policy advisor Yuri Ushakov said Putin's trip to North Korea “will be very eventful” and that Putin and Kim Jong-un “intend to sign a new strategic partnership to ensure greater stability in Northeast Asia.” This new agreement will replace the documents signed between Moscow and Pyongyang in 1961. Satellite images from Planet Labs and Maxar Technologies, reported by CNN, show preparations for a large parade in Pyongyang's central square. A grandstand is under construction on the eastern side of Kim Il Sung Square, where all major North Korean parades are held. Another image from June 5 shows North Koreans practicing in marching formations.

The United States, South Korea and other countries, including the United Kingdom, accuse North Korea of ​​providing massive military aid to support Putin's troops' invasion of Ukraine, including ballistic missiles that were allegedly used against Ukraine. International observers fear that Moscow may violate international sanctions to help Pyongyang develop its spy satellite program. Despite accusations of arms transfers to Russia, both countries stubbornly deny exchanging war supplies. According to South Korea's Ministry of Defense, between August 2023 and February 2024, Pyongyang shipped approximately 6,700 containers containing more than 3 million 152 mm artillery shells to Russia. Yesterday, US national security spokesman John Kirby said the Biden administration “is not concerned about Putin's trip, but rather about the deepening of relations between these two countries.” Kirby also expressed fears “about the arrival of new North Korean ballistic missiles to strike Ukrainian targets.” Putin, quoted by the newspaper Rodong Sinmun, said on the eve of the trip: «Russia will support North Korea without delay in the future and Pyongyang firmly supports the Russian military operation in Ukraine». The Kremlin leader's trip follows that of Kim Jong-un last September, when the North Korean leader traveled to Russia on his armored train, visiting many sites a fighter plane factory and a missile plant. Kim Jong-un told the Rodong Sinmun last week that “North Korea will give full support to the Russian army and people.” South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik, in an interview with Bloomberg, said: «Putin will seek closer security cooperation with North Korea, particularly on military supplies such as artillery shells needed to increase chance to win in Ukraine.”