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North Korean leader vows full support for Russia in Ukraine amid Putin visit

Vladimir Putin was welcomed by the North Korean leader in Pyongyang (Sputnik/Kremlin Pool via AP)
Vladimir Putin was welcomed by the North Korean leader in Pyongyang (Sputnik/Kremlin Pool via AP)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has promised full support for Russia’s war in Ukraine before beginning a one-on-one meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang, in a bid to expand their economic and military cooperation and show a united front against Washington.

Mr Putin said that Moscow and Pyongyang will sign an agreement that will bolster their ties and thanked North Korea for supporting the Kremlin’s policies in Ukraine.

Speaking at the start of his talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Russian leader said in remarks carried by Russian state Tass and RIA Novosti news agencies that the “new fundamental document will form the basis of our ties for a long perspective”.

Mr Putin shakes Mr Kim by the hand
The two countries are presenting a united front (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Putin also hailed a “close friendship” between the two countries based on “equality and respect of mutual interests”, and noted their “fight against the imperialist hegemonistic policies of the US and its satellites against the Russian Federation”.

The Russian leader arrived in North Korea early on Wednesday, Russian news agencies said.

Mr Putin said the two countries want to co-operate closely to overcome US-led sanctions in the face of intensifying confrontations with Washington.

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Vladimir Putin said that Russia and North Korea want to co-operate closely to overcome US-led sanctions (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The Russian president was met at Pyongyang’s airport by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. They shook hands and embraced, and Mr Kim later joined Mr Putin in his car to personally guide him to Pyongyang’s Kumsusan State Guest House, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said.

The agency described their meeting as a historic event that demonstrates the “invincibility and durability” of the two nations’ friendship and unity.

Making his first trip to North Korea in 24 years, Mr Putin said that he appreciates the country’s firm support of his military actions in Ukraine. The Kremlin launched a full-scale invasion of the neighbouring country in 2022.

Mr Kim addresses Russian dignitaries across a table
North Korea has pledged to support Russia in Ukraine (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

He said the countries would continue to “resolutely oppose” what he described as Western ambitions “to hinder the establishment of a multipolar world order based on justice, mutual respect for sovereignty, considering each other’s interests”.

Mr Putin’s visit comes amid growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Russia’s war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Mr Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programme.

In the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, the streets were decorated with portraits of Putin and Russian flags.

A banner on a building said: “We warmly welcome the President of the Russian Federation.”

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is welcomed upon his arrival to meet with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo/AP)

Mr Putin also said in his published remarks that Russia and North Korea will develop trade and payment systems “that are not controlled by the West” and jointly oppose sanctions against the countries, which he described as “illegal, unilateral restrictions”.

North Korea is under heavy UN Security Council economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programmes, while Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.

Mr Putin said the countries will also expand co-operation in tourism, culture and education.

Mr Putin puts his hand on Mr Kim's shoulder
Mr Kim hailed the two countries’ ‘fiery friendship’ (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Responding, Mr Kim said relations between Moscow and Pyongyang are now even closer than during Soviet times and called Mr Putin’s visit an opportunity to solidify their “fiery friendship”.

The North Korean leader vowed his country’s “full support and solidarity to the Russian government, army and people in carrying out the special military operation in Ukraine to protect sovereignty, security interests and territorial integrity”.

The visit comes amid growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Mr Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programme.

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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un stands waiting to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Military, economic and other exchanges between North Korea and Russia have sharply increased since Mr Kim visited the Russian Far East in September for a meeting with Mr Putin, their first since 2019.

US and South Korean officials have accused the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles and other military equipment to help prolong its fighting in Ukraine, possibly in return for key military technologies and aid.

Both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied accusations about North Korean weapons transfers, which would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions Russia previously endorsed.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin has made his first trip to North Korea in 24 years (Gavriil Grigorov/AP)

Along with China, Russia has provided political cover for Mr Kim’s continuing efforts to advance his nuclear arsenal, repeatedly blocking US-led efforts to impose fresh UN sanctions on the North over its weapons tests.

In March, a Russian veto at the United Nations ended monitoring of UN sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program, prompting Western accusations that Moscow is seeking to avoid scrutiny as it buys weapons from Pyongyang for use in Ukraine.

Mr Putin has continuously sought to rebuild ties with Pyongyang as part of efforts to restore his country’s clout and its Soviet-era alliances.

After one-on-one talks, the two might issue a joint statement and Kim will host a reception, according to Russian media. Mr Putin is expected to leave Wednesday evening for Vietnam.