By Oyintari Ben
Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, will soon travel to Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin, the two countries announced on Monday. This might be a historic encounter as Moscow faces growing isolation due to the conflict in Ukraine.
The Kremlin announced that Kim will travel to Russia soon at Putin’s request, and the North Korean state news agency KCNA stated the two would “meet and have a talk” without going into further detail.
According to American sources, the two would talk about potential arms agreements to support Russia’s conflict in Ukraine and give North Korea a much-needed economic and political lifeline.
Governments had been anxiously monitoring whether Kim would make the trip for his second summit with Putin due to recent overtures that suggested deeper military collaboration between the nuclear-armed North and Russia as it carried out its conflict in Ukraine.
Despite denials from both Pyongyang and Moscow, the U.S. has claimed that active negotiations are going on for North Korea to provide Russia with guns since Russia has depleted its large stockpile of weapons in the more than 18-month-long war in Ukraine.
According to South Korean media on Monday, which cited anonymous senior government officials, the North Korean leader appeared to board a special train headed for Russia. However, neither Moscow nor Pyongyang immediately confirmed the visit’s precise itinerary.
Since the invasion of Ukraine last year, North Korea has been one of the few nations to publicly back Russia, and Putin promised last week to “expand bilateral ties in all respects in a planned way by pooling efforts”.
Kim travelled to Vladivostok for his first summit with Putin since the failure of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament negotiations with former U.S. President Donald Trump on his final trip overseas in 2019.
Kim reportedly departed Pyongyang late on Sunday and will meet Putin as early as Tuesday, according to the Chosun Ilbo newspaper in South Korea.
The summit is expected to take place on Tuesday or Wednesday, and Kim would travel by special train to the north-eastern border of North Korea with Russia. Senior South Korean government sources that were not named were quoted in both publications.