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Kim Jong Un enroute to meet Putin; US urges N Korea ‘not to sell Russia arms’

The United States has issued an official statement urging North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to ‘not sell arms to Russia’ as the latter embarks on a visit to Russia where he is expected to hold a highly anticipated meeting with President Vladimir Putin. 

The meet, as declared by Russia and North Korea on Monday, has sparked Western concerns about a potential arms deal for Moscow’s war in Ukraine. A brief statement on the Kremlin’s website said the visit is at Putin’s invitation and would take place “in the coming days.” It also was reported by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, which said the leaders would meet — without specifying when and where.

“The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un will meet and have a talk with Comrade Putin during the visit,” it said.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the White House read, “Urge North Korea to abide by commitments and not sell Russia arms”.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said delegations from both countries will meet, but he didn’t confirm plans for a bilateral session between Putin and Kim, saying the leaders will meet one-on-one “if necessary”, according to AP

The visit would be Kim’s first foreign trip since the Covid-19 pandemic, which had forced North Korea to enforce tight border controls for more than three years to shield its poor health care system.

US officials released intelligence last week that North Korea and Russia were arranging a meeting between their leaders that would take place within this month as they expand their cooperation in the face of deepening confrontations with the United States.

According to analysts cited in an AP report, North Korea has possibly tens of millions of artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could potentially give a huge boost to the Russian army.

In exchange, Kim Jong Un could seek badly needed energy and food aid and advanced weapons technologies, including those related to intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines and military reconnaissance satellites, analysts say.

There are concerns that potential Russian technology transfers would increase the threat posed by Kim’s growing arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles that are designed to target the US, South Korea, and Japan.

North Korea is the only nation besides Russia and Syria to recognize the independence of two Russian-backed separatist regions in eastern Ukraine — Donetsk and Luhansk -– and it has also hinted at an interest in sending construction workers to those areas to help with rebuilding efforts.

After a complicated, hot-and-cold relationship for decades, Russia and North Korea have been drawing closer since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

(With AP inputs)

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Updated: 11 Sep 2023, 09:15 PM IST

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