North Korea’s Kim gets a close look at Russian fighter jets as his tour narrows its focus to weapons

SEOUL (S Korea), Sep 15: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected Russia’s most advanced fighter jet as he toured an aircraft factory today on an extended trip that has raised concerns about banned weapons transfer deals between the increasingly isolated countries.

Since entering Russia aboard his armoured train on Tuesday, Kim has met President Vladimir Putin and visited weapons and technology sites, underscoring deepening ties between the two nations locked in separate confrontations with the West.

Foreign governments and experts speculate Kim will likely supply ammunition to Russia for its war efforts in Ukraine in exchange for receiving advanced weapons or technology from Russia.

On Friday, Russia’s state media published video showing Kim’s train pulling into a station in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur.

An Associated Press journalist saw Kim’s convoy, his limousine sporting the Russian and North Korean flags, sweeping out of the station on the way to the aircraft factory.

On Friday, Russia’s state media published videos showing Kim’s train pulling into a station in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Kim’s convoy sweeping out of the station on the way to the city’s aircraft factory.

Russia’s Cabinet later released video showing Kim, on an elevated platform, looking at the cockpit of the Su-57 — Russia’s most sophisticated fighter jet — while listening to its pilot. Kim beamed and clapped his hands when a Su-35 fighter jet landed after a demonstration flight.

According to a Russian Cabinet statement, Kim visited a facility producing Sukhoi SJ-100 passenger planes as well, accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov.

“We have shown one of our leading aircraft plants to the leader of (North Korea),” Manturov said in the statement.

“We are seeing potential for cooperation in the aircraft-making and other industries, which is particularly acute for solving our countries’ task of achieving technological sovereignty.”

Kim travels next to Vladivostok to view Russia’s Pacific fleet, a university and other facilities, Putin told Russian media after he met with Kim on Wednesday.

Putin on Friday briefed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko about his summit with Kim.

During their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Lukashenko suggested that Belarus could join Russia and North Korea in “three-way cooperation.”

It was Kim’s first foreign trip since April 2019, when he visited Vladivostok for his first meeting with Putin.

The 2019 Russian visit came two months after Kim failed to win badly needed sanctions relief from the United States during a second summit with then US-President Donald Trump in Vietnam.

Kim’s earlier trip was likely primarily meant to seek Russian help to overcome the brunt of the US-led sanctions.

But this time, Putin appears to be desperate to receive North Korean conventional arms to replenish his exhausted inventory in the second year of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Experts say Kim, in return, would seek Russian assistance to modernise his air force and navy, which are inferior to those of rival South Korea while Kim has devoted much of his own resources to his nuclear weapons program.

Asked whether Russia asked North Korea to send troops to fight alongside Russian soldiers in Ukraine, Putin flatly dismissed the idea, calling it “sheer nonsense,” according to Russia’s state media.

Putin reiterated that Russia would abide by UN sanctions, some of which ban North Korea from exporting or importing any weapons.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov separately said that no agreements on bilateral military cooperation were signed after the Putin-Kim meeting Wednesday.

The Kremlin said Thursday that Putin accepted Kim’s invitation to Pyongyang, and that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to visit in October.

At Wednesday’s summit, Kim vowed “full and unconditional support” for Putin in what he described as a “just fight against hegemonic forces to defend its sovereign rights, security and interests,” in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.

Information on Kim’s trip to Russia is largely from the two nations’ official media outlets. North Korean media did not give updates Friday on Kim.

They typically report on his activities a day later, apparently to meet the need for North Korean propaganda to glorify Kim. (AP)

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