Kim Jong-un to travel to Russia for possible arms deal

Kim Jong-un will travel to Russia on an armoured train to sign a possible weapons deal with Vladimir Putin, according to US intelligence officials.

The North Korean leader is reportedly seeking satellite and nuclear submarine technology from Russia in exchange for artillery shells and anti-tank missiles to assist the Russian president in his war in Ukraine.

US and Western officials said that Kim would travel by train to meet Mr Putin in Vladivostok, on Russia’s eastern coast.

The meeting is likely to take place in the margins of the Eastern Economic Forum, a Russian investment conference, between September 10 and 13, but officials suggested Kim could also visit Moscow.

Mr Putin is hoping to boost his military arsenal after a series of major setbacks in the war, including recent successes for Ukraine in penetrating the first line of Russian defences in a counter offensive aimed at cutting off Crimea.

Ukraine has also stepped up its drone attacks on Russia itself, reportedly destroying transport in the western city of Pskov last week.

Officials suggested that Kim is also likely to ask Mr Putin for food aid to feed the North Korean people, who have become “increasingly desperate” in recent months, according to the United Nations.

Possible three-way military drills with China

Reports of a meeting between the leaders comes after the White House warned they had exchanged letters discussing the prospect of an arms deal.

John F. Kirby, of the US Government’s National Security Council, said talks were “actively advancing” as Russia looks to its remaining allies for military assistance.

“Following these negotiations, high-level discussions may continue in coming months,” he said last Wednesday.

South Korean officials warned that Mr Putin has suggested that North Korea join three-way military drills with China, after the Russian ambassador to Pyongyang said a stronger military alliance between the countries “seems appropriate”.

Mr Putin has previously thanked Kim for his “firm support” of the war in Ukraine, calling into question the regime’s denials that it has armed Russia already.

“Solidarity with Russia on key international issues highlight our common interests,” Mr Putin said in July.

North Korea is in possession of a range of high-powered nuclear weapons, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a range of 15,000km.

But the country has twice failed to launch a spy satellite, and is thought to be seeking assistance from Russia for a third attempt

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands

The two leaders are likely to meet on the margins of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok – AFP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

On Monday, the Russian president vowed he would not restore the Ukraine grain deal, which is blocking food supplies to many poor countries, unless the West accedes to his demands to drop sanctions on Russian food exports.

Cooperation between Russia and its allies is expected to be a talking point among Western leaders at this week’s G20 summit, which begins on Saturday in New Delhi.

Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is not expected to attend. China, which also borders North Korea, has attempted to remain neutral in the war but has propped up the Russian economy and arms industry.

US urges North Korea to cease arms negotiations with Russia

The White House refused to confirm it had direct intelligence suggesting a meeting was planned between Kim and Putin.

But Adrienne Watson, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the US believed North Korea expected “leader-level diplomatic engagement” with Russia over arms.

“As we have warned publicly, arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing,” she said.

“Last month, Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Defense Minister, traveled to the DPRK to try to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia.

“We have information that Kim Jong-Un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia. We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.”

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