BSS
  12 Jun 2024, 12:59

N. Korea's Kim hails Russia ties ahead of likely Putin visit

SEOUL, June 12, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on
Wednesday hailed his country's ties with Russia, saying the two nations were
"invincible comrades-in-arms", amid reports President Vladimir Putin will
visit Pyongyang imminently.

Kim made a rare overseas trip to meet Putin in Russia's far east last year,
with Seoul and Washington subsequently claiming Pyongyang was shipping
weapons to Moscow for use in Ukraine, violating UN sanctions, in return for
technical help with its satellite program.

Putin was expected to pay a return visit to North Korea in the coming days,
after the Kremlin told Russian media in May that the trip was "being
prepared".

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the visit could take place "as
early as next week," as part of a tour that would also include a stop in
Vietnam.

Ties between North Korea and Russia have "developed into an unbreakable
relationship of comrades-in-arms," leader Kim wrote in a message to Putin
carried in the official Korean Central News Agency Wednesday.

Their "meaningful" ties will "further consolidate the eternal milestone" in
the new era, Kim added, according to KCNA.

Yonhap said that satellite images showed possible signs of a "large
structure" being installed in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square.

Such activity has previously been observed when North Korea was preparing for
large-scale events in the capital, such as military parades or visits by
high-ranking foreign figures, according to Yonhap.

When he visited Putin last year, Kim said the North's ties with Moscow were
his country's "number one priority".

Analysts have also warned that ramped-up testing and production of artillery
and cruise missiles by the nuclear-armed North could be in preparation for
shipments to Russia for use in Ukraine.

North Korea is barred by UN sanctions from any tests using ballistic
technology, but Moscow used its UN Security Council veto in March to
effectively end UN monitoring of violations, for which Pyongyang has
specifically thanked Russia.

North Korea has denied the allegations that it is shipping weapons to Russia,
calling the claim "absurd".

However, a pentagon report last month said Russia is using North Korean
ballistic missiles in Ukraine, citing debris analysis.

Experts said that during Putin's visit to Pyongyang, North Korea would likely
push to export more war materials to be used in the Ukraine war, in exchange
for importing food and energy from Russia.

There is a "disparity in the threat perception between what's happening in
Ukraine -- an actual, visible conflict -- and what's happening in North Korea
-- the possibility of a crisis, which may seem distant when compared to the
realities of the Russia-Ukraine war," Soo Kim, a former CIA analyst, told
AFP.

"This plays to both Putin and Kim's advantage, obviously, as Putin, who's
currently embroiled in the war and is pressed to receive help in his war
efforts, and Kim is keen to build out his weapons program further," she
added.

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