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North Korea's Kim Jong-un to travel to Russia for Ukraine war arms deal
4 September 2023, 22:00
Kim Jong-un is set to go to Russia to thrash out an weapons-for-technology deal that could give Russia a boost in its invasion of Ukraine.
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The North Korean leader will travel hundreds of miles north to Russia's Far East city of Vladivostok on an armoured train, according to US and other Western officials.
Kim wants satellite and nuclear submarine technology, and can offer the Kremlin artillery shells and anti-tank missiles, the New York Times reported.
The White House said earlier that talks between Russia and North Korea were "actively advancing".
"Following these negotiations, high-level discussions may continue in coming months," John F. Kirby, of the US Government’s National Security Council, said last Wednesday.
Amid deepening nuclear tensions with Washington, Seoul and Tokyo, Mr Kim has been trying to boost the visibility of his partnerships with Moscow and Beijing as he seeks to break out of diplomatic isolation and have Pyongyang be a part of a united front against the United States.
Russia has also likely suggested that North Korea take part in three-way naval exercises with China, according to a legislator who attended a closed-door briefing with the director of South Korea's top spy agency.
The briefing came days after Russia's ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, told Russian media that including North Korea in joint military drills between Russia and China "seems appropriate".
Mr Matsegora added that this was his own point of view and that he was not aware of any preparations, according to Russia's Tass news agency.
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According to legislator Yoo Sang-bum, when South Korean National Intelligence Service director Kim Kyou-hyun was asked about the possibility of such drills, he said Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu likely proposed holding trilateral naval exercises with North Korea and China while meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in July.
Mr Kim invited Mr Shoigu to a major military parade in Pyongyang in July while vowing to expand military cooperation with Moscow, which US officials say could involve North Korean supplies of artillery and other ammunition as Mr Putin reaches out to other countries for support in his war against Ukraine.
Diplomacy between Pyongyang and Washington has stalled since 2019 over disagreements over the crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea and the North's faltered steps to wind down its nuclear weapons and missiles programme.
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In the briefing, the service director Kim Kyou-hyun also said that North Korea's recent testing activities suggest its warplanes were highly reliant on its tactical nuclear systems as its aims to achieve swift victory over the South if war breaks out, as its otherwise ill-equipped military would struggle to handle a prolonged war, according to Mr Yoo.
Mr Kim has used the international focus on Russia's war on Ukraine to dial up his weapons demonstrations, which have included more than 100 missile launches since the start of 2022.
The North Korean leader's testing spree has been punctuated by verbal threats of pre-emptive nuclear attacks against South Korea and other rivals if the North perceives its leadership as under threat.