North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday inspected a Russian fighter jet factory that is under Western sanctions, part of a visit Washington and its allies fear could strengthen Russia’s military in Ukraine and bolster Pyongyang’s missile program.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim discussed military matters, the war in Ukraine and deepening cooperation when they met at a summit on Wednesday.
South Korea and the United States said on Friday that military cooperation between North Korea and Russia was a violation of UN sanctions against Pyongyang and that the allies would ensure there is a price to pay.
President Putin told reporters that Russia was “not going to violate anything”, but would keep developing relations with North Korea. His spokesman said no agreements had been signed during Kim’s visit on military issues or any other topic.
Kim Jong Un, 39, on Friday, visited aviation facilities in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant and the Yakovlev plant, both units of United Aircraft Corporation, which is sanctioned by the West.
At the Gagarin plant, which is also specifically sanctioned by the United States, he inspected the assembly workshops where the Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter and Su-57 fighter are made, escorted by Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, the government said.
Kim Jong Un, dressed in a suit and accompanied by North Korean military officials in uniform, was shown on Russian state television examining the cockpit of a fighter jet as Russian officials explained its capabilities via a translator.
He then inspected workshops where the fuselage compartments and wing assemblies of Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 were made before watching a demonstration flight of the Su-35. He nodded with approval as the fighter performed.
Russia has gone out of its way to publicise the visit and to drop repeated hints about the prospect of military cooperation with North Korea, which was formed in 1948 with the backing of the then-Soviet Union.
For Putin, who says Russia is locked in an existential battle with the West over Ukraine, courting Kim Jong Un allows him to needle Washington and its Asian allies while potentially securing a deep supply of artillery for the Ukraine war.
Washington has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, which has the world’s biggest store of nuclear warheads, but it is unclear whether any deliveries have been made.
The United States and South Korea appear worried by the revival of Moscow’s friendship with Pyongyang which they fear could give Kim Jong Un access to some of Russia’s sensitive missile and other technology.
US and South Korean officials called on Moscow to show responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
“We agreed to work together to ensure there is a price to pay for the grave violation of Security Council resolutions,” South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin told a press conference in Seoul.
Bonnie Jenkins, US Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, who is visiting Seoul, said the United States condemned the escalation of defence and political cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow.
“Obviously the recent reports of the potential sale of arms between North Korea and Russia are concerning. Any such transfer of arms would be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions,” she said.
But it was not immediately clear what – if any – leverage the United States and its Asian allies such as South Korea and Japan would have over either Russia or North Korea, both of which have close ties to China.
Russian diplomats said Washington had no right to lecture Moscow after the United States had bolstered its allies across the world, including with a visit of a US nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine to South Korea in July.
The US State Department said on Wednesday the Biden administration would not hesitate to impose additional sanctions on Russia and North Korea if they conclude new arms deals.
The Kremlin says it abides by UN sanctions but that it has a right to develop neighbourly relations, including on sensitive topics.
Kim arrived in Russia on his special train on Tuesday, held a summit with Putin on Wednesday in Vostochny and appeared to have spent most of Thursday travelling before appearing in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, 6,000 km (3,700 miles) east of Moscow, on Friday.
His Maybach limousine was filmed being driven onto his train on Friday in Komsomolsk-on-Amur with the help of a special platform.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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