North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has inspected Russia’s nuclear bombers, hypersonic missiles and an advanced warship from its Pacific fleet, during a trip to the country’s far east.
After arriving in the city of Artyom by train, Kim travelled to an airport just outside the port city of Vladivostok where Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior military officials gave him an up-close look at Russia’s strategic bombers and other warplanes.
All the Russian planes shown to Kim on Saturday were among the types that have seen active use in the war in Ukraine, including the Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers.
Shoigu, who met Kim during a rare visit to North Korea in July, also showed him one of Russia’s latest missiles, the hypersonic Kinzhal, carried by the MiG-31 fighter jet.
The pair later travelled to Vladivostok, where they inspected the Admiral Shaposhnikov frigate of Russia’s Pacific fleet.
Russia’s navy commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov briefed Kim on the ship’s weapons, which include long-range Kalibr cruise missiles regularly fired at targets in Ukraine.
Kim’s visits to military and technology sites this week possibly hint at what he wants from Russia, perhaps in exchange for supplying munitions to refill Vladimir Putin’s declining reserves as his invasion of Ukraine becomes a drawn-out war of attrition.
Kim’s trip to Russia, which included more than four hours of talks with the Russian president on Wednesday, comes amid momentum in military cooperation between the countries.
Kim was seen peering at the Kinzhal missile and gesturing and asking questions about the warplanes’ capabilities as he discussed technical details with Shoigu and other officials.
Kim was also seen talking to Shoigu and Yevmenov about a purported nuclear attack submarine the North unveiled last week as they stepped out of the Shaposhnikov frigate.
Kim in recent months has emphasised 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.
Associated Press – Kim Tong-Hyung and Hyung-Jin Kim