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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit Kim Jong Un soon, North Korean state media reported Sunday, the latest sign of increasing cooperation between the two authoritarian leaders as war rages in Ukraine and military tensions increase in East Asia.
Putin thanked Kim for an invitation to visit Pyongyang and pledged to go there “at an early date,” the report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the dates for Putin’s visit to North Korea were still being discussed through diplomatic channels and would be announced later, Russian state-run news agency TASS reported.
Last Tuesday, North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui met Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow to discuss issues regarding the Korean Peninsula, Northeast Asia and international peace and security, according to TASS.
At that meeting the two sides expressed a “strong will to further strengthen strategic and tactical cooperation in defending the core interests of the two countries,” KCNA said.
A Putin visit to Pyongyang would reciprocate one Kim made last September, when the North Korean leader traveled in his armored train to Russia’s far eastern region, visiting a factory that produces fighter jets and a rocket-launch facility among other stops.
During that visit, Kim praised Russia for standing up to “hegemonic forces” with its war in Ukraine, while Putin signaled a willingness to assist North Korea in developing its space and satellite programs.
Signs of increasing Russian-North Korean cooperation have been seen in Ukraine.
According to the US Defense Department, Russia has twice in the past month fired North Korean-made missiles at targets in Ukraine. And South Korean intelligence has reported that Pyongyang has supplied Moscow with more than 1 million artillery shells that could be used in the invasion of Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Western analysts say Russia could be a source of technology and expertise for Kim as he refines a nuclear-capable missile program that could threaten not only his neighbors in East Asia, but possibly the mainland United States with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Kim has been drawing an increasingly harder line against South Korea in recent weeks, saying the North will no longer seek reconciliation and reunification with the South and instructing the country’s army, munitions industry, nuclear weapons and civil defense sectors to accelerate war preparations in response to “confrontation moves” by the US.
Last week, in a speech to a Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) meeting in Pyongyang, Kim called the South the North’s “primary foe and invariable principal enemy” and said a reunification monument in the North Korean capital was an “eyesore” that should be demolished. — CNN
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