North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, could potentially travel to Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, signaling a deepening cooperation between the two isolated leaders. This development comes as both leaders find themselves engaged in separate confrontations with the United States.
According to a US official, Russia is seeking to purchase ammunition from North Korea to replenish its reserves, which have been drained due to the ongoing war in Ukraine. In exchange, North Korea is expected to request food, energy shipments, and transfers of sophisticated weapons technologies.
If the meeting between Kim and Putin takes place, it would mark Kim’s first summit with a foreign leader since North Korea closed its borders in January 2020. This closure followed the collapse of his nuclear diplomacy with former US President Donald Trump in April 2019.
Russia’s Defense Minister, Sergey Shoigu, has already visited Pyongyang to request more ammunition from North Korea, despite this being a violation of UN resolutions. Russia, facing international sanctions over its war in Ukraine, has been actively seeking weapons from other sanctioned countries.
Experts suggest that Kim’s main priorities in this potential deal would be aid shipments, prestige, and military technology. North Korea is currently facing economic difficulties due to the closure of its borders during the pandemic, and is likely to seek supplies of food and energy.
If the summit takes place, it is speculated that a weapons-for-food aid deal could be reached. Kim is also expected to use the expanding relations with Russia to showcase that North Korea is overcoming years of isolation, while also seeking Russian technology to support the development of advanced weapons systems.
While the extent of military cooperation between Kim and Putin remains uncertain, any warming of relations between the two countries is likely to raise concerns among their rivals, particularly the US and South Korea. Russia aims to quell a Ukrainian counteroffensive and prolong the war, while North Korea has been increasing missile tests in protest of US military alliances in the region.
There are also rumors of a possible bilateral military exercise between Russia and North Korea, as well as a proposed trilateral training exercise involving China. If realized, this would mark the first joint military drills between North Korea and a foreign country since the Korean War. However, experts believe that North Korea may not accept the offer to avoid further dependence on China and Russia.
The exact outcomes of Kim’s diplomacy with Russia remain difficult to predict, but it is expected to serve as a defiant gesture towards the United States. Both countries aim to showcase their cooperation and send symbolic messages to the US through this potential alliance.