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Kremlin Silent Amid Western Reports on Imminent Putin–Kim Summit in Russia

According to Western officials cited by The New York Times, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in eastern Russia.When asked about the claims on Sept. 5, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “We have nothing to tell you.”The Kremlin has never stated that a Putin–Kim meeting was on the agenda.Related Stories
The New York Times reported on Sept. 4 that Mr. Kim planned to meet with Mr. Putin in mid-September in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok.According to the newspaper, the two men plan to discuss “the possibility of [North Korea’s] supplying Russia with more weaponry for its war in Ukraine and other military cooperation.”The NY Times cited unnamed “American and allied officials” who “declined to provide details on how spy agencies had collected the information.”The newspaper also claimed that Mr. Kim would likely travel “by armored train” to Vladivostok from Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.According to the unnamed officials, Moscow hopes to obtain North Korean artillery shells and antitank missiles in return for “advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines.”If the purported meeting materializes, it wouldn’t be the first of its kind.In 2019, Mr. Kim traveled by train to Vladivostok, roughly 300 miles from North Korea’s border, where he met Mr. Putin for the first time.Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attend a reception in Vladivostok, Russia, on April 25, 2019. (Alexey Nikolsky/ Sputnik/ AFP via Getty Images)Shoigu in Pyongyang In late July, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited Pyongyang, where he attended a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. He also attended a military parade and held talks with the North Korean leader.It was the first known visit to North Korea by a Russian defense minister since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.The Russian defense ministry later stated that talks had included an “exchange of views on issues pertaining to global and regional security.” According to the officials cited by The NY Times, it was at this meeting that Mr. Shoigu proposed a second visit to Russia by Mr. Kim.“The development of [Russia–North Korea] military cooperation corresponds to the vital interests of our peoples,” Mr. Shoigu said at a mid-August security forum hosted by Moscow.“It does not pose a threat to anyone whatsoever,” he asserted. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Chinese Communist Party politburo member Li Hongzhong, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, on July 27, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)Warning from Washington On Sept. 5, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said talks between Russia and North Korea about potential weapons transfers were “actively advancing.”On the same day, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Pyongyang about the consequences of supplying Russia with weapons for use in its ongoing invasion of eastern Ukraine.Such a move, he told reporters, “is not going to reflect well on North Korea, and they will pay a price for this in the international community.”In August, the United States imposed sanctions on three entities that it claimed were connected to arms deals between North Korea and Russia.Mr. Kirby has previously hinted at U.S. plans to impose fresh sanctions on both Russia and North Korea, in light of their alleged cooperation in the military–technical field.In May 2022, China and Russia vetoed a U.S.-led push at the U.N. Security Council to impose additional sanctions on North Korea for test-firing several ballistic missiles.White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan talks to reporters during a news conference at the White House, on Sept. 5, 2023. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)Envoy Scorns Sanctions Last week, Alexander Matsegora, Moscow’s envoy to Pyongyang, said Western-led sanctions won’t stop the two countries from enhancing their bilateral ties.“As for the impact of UN Security Council sanctions on [Russia–North Korea] relations, I would say firmly: They have no effect,” he told Russia’s TASS news agency on Sept. 2.Mr. Matsegora added that Moscow and Pyongyang both already assumed that sanctions would “be in effect for a very long time, if not forever.”The diplomat went on to assert that there was room for bilateral cooperation in “many areas,” adding that political cooperation in particular was gathering steam.He also said the inclusion of North Korea in future joint Russia–China military drills would be “appropriate” but stressed he was unaware of any plans to that end.Reuters contributed to this report.

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