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Kim and Putin meet at Russian spaceport for possible arms talks

Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin held hours of talks at a Russian spaceport Wednesday in a rare encounter that has fueled Western concerns the North Korean leader will provide military support for the Russian president’s war in Ukraine.

The two leaders smiled and shook hands as they met at the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s far eastern Amur region, bringing together their increasingly isolated regimes engaged in intensifying confrontations with the United States and its allies.

It was a rare trip abroad for Kim, his first after three years of pandemic isolation and a sign of how the Kremlin’s war has raised the importance of its few remaining friends.

Support for Russia’s ‘sacred fight’

The two men met at the entrance to a launch vehicle assembly building, where Putin said he was “happy to see” Kim and the North Korean leader thanked his host for having invited him to visit Russia “despite being busy.”

Putin also congratulated Kim on the 75th anniversary of his country’s founding, which North Korea celebrated on Saturday. The Soviet Union, Russia’s predecessor state, was the first country to recognize North Korea when it was founded in 1948, and supported North Korea in its 1950-53 war against South Korea.

Now it appears to be North Korea’s turn to come to Russia’s aid.

Kim offered Putin his country’s “full and unconditional support” for what he called Russia’s “sacred fight” to defend its security interests — an apparent reference to Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine — and vowed that North Korea “will always be together with Russia in the fight against imperialism.”

After they inspected the spaceport, they held talks between their delegations and then had a one-on-one meeting.

Before his meeting with Putin, Kim wrote in a guestbook: “The glory of Russia, which gave birth to the first space explorers, will be immortal.”

The two leaders dined on local specialties including duck salad with figs and nectarine, crab dumplings, fish soup, sturgeon and Russian white and red wines.

Asked by reporters whether he and Kim would discuss arms sales, Putin said that they would address “all the questions” and that “there is time,” the state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Putin also suggested that Russia could help North Korea develop satellites, noting that Kim was “showing great interest in rocket technology.”

“They are trying to develop space as well,” Putin said.

Tours and technology

After meeting with Kim, Putin said the North Korean leader had a “big program” ahead, and would continue his tour of Russia with visits planned to the far-eastern cities of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Vladivostok, where he will view plants where civilian and military equipment is produced among other stops.

Kim’s private armored train arrived in Khasan, a Russian station just across North Korea’s northeastern border, early Tuesday local time. He was greeted on a red carpet by Natural Resources Minister Alexander Kozlov and regional Gov. Oleg Kozhemyako, as well as an honor guard and a military band, the North Korean state news agency KCNA said.

Kim said his visit to Russia, which is his first since 2019, showed that his government is “prioritizing the strategic importance” of relations between the two countries.

During his tour of the spaceport, Kim appeared to ask detailed questions about the technology used there. In recent months, his government has tried and failed twice to launch what it says is a spy satellite.

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