What would be riding on Kim Jong-un’s train journey to Vladimir Putin in Russia

Kim Jong-un’s reported plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this month reveal the lengths the North Korean leader would be willing to go to woo Moscow as a strategic partner in countering US interests.

The reclusive leader is famously paranoid about his security, rarely stepping beyond the sealed borders of his regime, and shunning air travel where possible in favour of a bottle green train of 21 bulletproof carriages.

If Kim does personally make the trip to Vladivostok, it suggests the meeting with Mr Putin goes far beyond an arms deal and reinforces a deeper alliance of convenience between two pariah states who increasingly view an opportunity to upset Washington’s policies in Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific.

For Pyongyang – intent on pursuing its nuclear weapons programme – tighter partnerships with Russia and China help break its diplomatic isolation to become part of a united front against the United States, which is seeking greater regional security cooperation with South Korea and Japan.

There is undoubtedly concern in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul about what both Russia and North Korea could get out of a military cooperation deal.

Mr Putin, bogged down in his war with Ukraine, wants Kim’s stocks of artillery shells and anti-tank missiles, while North Korea seeks Russia’s help with advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as food for its malnourished people, US officials told the New York Times.

Such a mutually beneficial transaction would allow Russia to replenish depleted arms supplies while boosting Kim’s image domestically as a statesman and enabling North Korea to evade sanctions intended to block the expansion of its own nuclear arsenal.

North Korea is banned from developing weapons that use ballistic missile technology by United Nations Security Council resolutions that have previously been backed by all permanent members, including Russia and China.

But tensions among UNSC members over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make the likelihood of Moscow playing a constructive role in managing tensions on the Korean Peninsula less realistic than ever. It rather presents the chance to be a thorn in America’s side.

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