Kim Jong Un, Putin Discuss Satellite Program Amid Arms Deal Speculations


Continuing his closely watched journey to Russia, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has held discussions with Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The two met at the Vostochny space centre after Mr. Kim arrived via his privately armored train. Speculations of a potential arms deal ensued as both parties deliberated on possibilities for military cooperation.

Mr. Putin revealed discussions about supporting Pyongyang in the development of satellites, which the U.S. views as a ploy by Moscow to purchase weapons in support of its battle against Ukraine. The U.S. asserts that this aid to North Korea’s satellite program goes against UN Security Council resolutions.

Adding to a relatively small list of state leaders who have visited North Korea, Mr. Putin has accepted an invitation from Mr. Kim. This meeting occurs at a period when both countries find their relationship with the West at a historic nadir.

Upon his arrival, Mr. Kim was given a warm welcome by Mr. Putin on his two-day journey to Russia’s extreme east. Footage from Russian state media showed the two leaders in high spirits as they shook hands, with Mr. Putin personally escorting Mr. Kim around the space center.

Drawing from Soviet Union and North Korean historical ties, Mr. Putin greeted his counterpart with the Russian proverb “an old friend is better than two new ones.” Responding to concerns about Russia aiding North Korea with satellite construction, Mr. Putin confirmed, “this is why we’ve come to Vostochny Cosmodrome.”

Possible arms deal talks were not ruled out by Mr. Putin who stated that they would “discuss all topics.” In the meantime, Mr. Kim seemed to back Mr. Putin’s commitment to war in Ukraine, citing Russia’s fight against “the hegemonic forces” of the West.

As his visit continues, Mr. Kim is expected to observe a display of Russian warships, tour several factories, and make a stop in the eastern city of Vladivostok. The duration of his stay in Russia remains unknown.

Still working towards the development of a military surveillance satellite following earlier failed attempts, North Korea remains committed. The U.S., however, worries that the satellite program may also serve the purpose of improving the country’s ballistic missile capabilities due to the similarity in technology.

Addressing concerns about Russia’s assistance with North Korean missile program, the U.S. State Department voiced concerns about potential violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions by Russia.

Deviating from a typical route to Vladivostok, where Mr. Putin was attending an economic forum, Mr. Kim’s train headed instead to Vostochny. This marked his first trip abroad since his journey to meet Mr. Putin following the breakdown of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament discussions with then U.S. president, Donald Trump back in 2019.

Mr. Kim’s visit coincided with North Korea firing two short-range missiles into the sea off its east coast, marking the latest addition to a series of banned weapons tests. The occasion marked the follow up to a Russian delegation’s visit to North Korea back in July. Mr. Kim had showcased Pyongyang’s missiles to defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, including the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile.

Amid all this, Mr. Kim is likely to request food aid for his country, struggling under the strain of sanctions and border closures due to Covid. Pyongyang may also seek more advanced submarine and ballistic technology from Russia. However, experts suggest that Mr. Putin may not be willing to provide these.

Deeper concerns arise from this meeting regarding the effectiveness of hefty sanctions on Russia and North Korea. Some analysts suggest the possibility of these sanctions consolidating Russia and North Korea, rendering the U.S. incapable of leveraging these sanctions to resolve conflicts. However, Pyongyangs’s involvement does not come without potential repercussions. Any evidence linking North Korean weapons with Russia’s actions in Ukraine might invite further sanctions and turn the entirety of the Nato alliance against North Korea.


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