Seoul: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un toured a factory that makes advanced fighter jets in a remote Russian city during his prolonged stay in the country. His visit raised alarm in the US and other nations, who warned Russia and North Korea not to engage in any arms transfer.
Kim also visited several other sites related to weapons and technology and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This fueled speculation that Kim might trade ammunition for sophisticated weapons or technology from Russia, which could use them in the conflict in Ukraine.
Both Russia and North Korea are under heavy sanctions and isolation from Western countries and are strengthening their ties. A video released by Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti showed Kim’s armored train arriving at a station in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and Kim’s convoy leaving the station shortly after. Tass news agency reported that Kim and local Russian officials inspected plants that produce Su-35 and Su-57 fighter planes.
Putin told Russian media after his summit with Kim that the North Korean leader would travel near Vladivostok to see Russia’s Pacific Fleet, a university, and other places. Experts say that Kim might ask for Russia’s assistance in modernizing his air force and navy in exchange for providing weapons for Putin’s war. Putin said, “That’s what we are here for,” when asked if Russia would help North Korea launch a satellite. He said, “(Kim has) shown a keen interest in rocket technology. He is also pursuing development in space science.”
Security advisers from the US, South Korea, and Japan had a phone conversation on Thursday and expressed “serious concerns” about the possibility of arms deals between Russia and North Korea, according to South Korea’s presidential office. The office said that Russia and North Korea have been warned that they “will have to pay a price” if they enter into such an agreement.
There is widespread concern in Seoul that North Korea could acquire advanced weapons technologies from Russia, including technology related to military spy satellites, which would increase the threat from Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program, in return for supplying ammunition. South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Jung Ho said that South Korea, the US, and Japan would react strongly if there was an arms deal between North Korea and Russia. These three countries are enhancing their trilateral security cooperation in light of the regional threat.