North Korean leader to visit Russia’s Pacific fleet as he continues trip focused on arms cooperation

In this photo released by the Khabarovsky Krai region government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, looks at a military jet cockpit while visiting a Russian aircraft plant that builds fighter jets in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, about 6,200 kilometers (3,900 miles) east of Moscow, Russia, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. (Khabarovsky Krai region government via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was to travel to the far eastern port city of Vladivostok to see Russia’s Pacific fleet, while his official media back home said Saturday that he was “deeply impressed” by a factory producing the most advanced Russian warplanes.

Kim’s trip to Russia, highlighted by a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, has sparked Western concerns about an arms alliance in which North Korean munitions fuel Putin’s war in Ukraine and Russian technologies advance the threat posed by Kim’s military nuclear program.


After meeting with Putin at Russia’s main spaceport, a location that communicated Kim’s desire for Russian assistance in his efforts to acquire space-based reconnaissance assets and missile technologies, North Korea’s leader reappeared Friday in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur for a visit to a plant producing Russia’s Su-57 fighter jets.

Experts have said potential military cooperation between the countries could include efforts to modernize North Korea’s outdated air force, which relies on warplanes sent from the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Kim’s plans to see Russian naval ships in Vladivostok could be another hint at what he wants from Russia, possibly in exchange for supplying munitions to refill Putin’s declining reserves as his invasion of Ukraine becomes a drawn-out war of attrition.

Kim in recent months has emphasized the need to strengthen his navy to counter the advanced naval assets of the United States, which has been expanding its combined military exercises with South Korea to counter the North’s growing threat.

Analysts say Kim’s focus on naval strength could be driven by ambitions to obtain sophisticated technologies for ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-propelled submarines as well as to initiate joint naval exercises between Russia and North Korea.

Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that during his visit to the aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Kim expressed “sincere regard” for what he described as Russia’s rapidly advancing aviation technologies, which he said were “outpacing the outside potential threats,” a comment Russian media also highlighted.

North Korean state media have been reporting Kim’s activities in Russia a day late while crafting the details to meet government propaganda purposes.

Russia’s Cabinet on Friday released a video showing Kim on an elevated platform looking at the cockpit of an Su-57 while listening to its pilot. Kim also beamed and clapped his hands when an Su-35 fighter jet landed after a demonstration flight.

During a luncheon hosted by Russian officials, Kim’s top military officer, army Marshal Ri Pyong Chol, said his leader’s visit to the facility “added another glorious page” to the relations between the countries, KCNA said. Kim’s delegation also includes the top commanders of North Korea’s air force and navy.

Putin on Friday briefed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko about his summit with Kim. During their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Lukashenko suggested Belarus could join Russia and North Korea in “three-way cooperation.”

Kim’s trip to Russia, his first since April 2019 when he met Putin in Vladivostok, came days after he attended a ceremony at a North Korean military shipyard where the country unveiled a purported nuclear attack submarine.

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