North Korea rolls out the red carpet for Putin

North Korea rolls out the red carpet for Putin

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is greeted by North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un during a welcoming ceremony at an airport in Pyongyang, North Korea June 19, 2024. 

Gavriil Grigorov | Via Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin was met with a grand reception in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday amid concerns from Western officials about the two nuclear-armed countries’ growing relationship.

North Korean state TV showed the two leaders warmly embracing on a red carpet outside Pyongyang International Airport after Putin landed around 2:45 a.m. local time, kicking off his first visit there in 24 years.

The state TV report showed the two leaders leaving in a car together as well as images of Pyongyang streets lined with flags, banners and posters promoting Putin and relations with Russia. 

During their initial meeting, the Russian and North Korean leaders shared their “pent-up inmost thoughts” and agreed to further develop their nations’ relations, state media KCNA reported.

The official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling party reported on Tuesday that Putin had praised Kim Jong Un’s leadership and promised to help develop trade and strengthen security across Eurasia. The article added that he supports the DPRK’s opposition to its “dangerous and aggressive” enemies.

Ahead of the trip, expected to last two days, Russian officials had also signaled that the countries could sign a “comprehensive strategic partnership” amid growing ties. 

Western countries — which heavily sanction both Russia and North Korea — have been closely monitoring developments of the visit and the potential ramifications for Russia’s war in Ukraine and tensions on the Korean Peninsula. 

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a joint press briefing on Tuesday that Putin’s trip “confirms the very close alignment between Russia and authoritarian states like North Korea,” as well as China and Iran. Stoltenberg delivered the comments alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

U.S. officials have asserted that Pyongyang supplied Russia with dozens of ballistic missiles and over 11,000 containers of munitions for its war in Ukraine and that Putin could use his trip to lobby for more weaponry.

“We are, of course, also concerned about the potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programs,” said Stoltenberg. 

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday, Victor Cha, senior vice president of Asia and Korea chair for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, agreed that North Korean weapon supplies to Russia could be reciprocated through Kremlin support for its nuclear program.

“The question is how badly Putin feels he needs the ammunition from North Korea to survive and to win the war,” said Cha. “That may lower the bar for what he’s willing to give to North Korea, particularly if Kim drives a hard deal.”

Early last year, Kim ordered the “exponential” expansion of his country’s nuclear arsenal and the development of more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles, state media reported. 

“The number one vendor for that [expansion] will most likely be Russia,” said Cha. “For the United States, this is a real problem… The Ukraine war is about the best thing that could have happened for Kim Jong Un.”

The White House has warned that any Russian aid to North Korea’s weapon programs could have repercussions for South Korea. 

On Tuesday, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told a news briefing that growing Russia-North Korea ties “should be of great concern to anyone interested in maintaining peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.”

Cha said, however, the United States may be limited in its ability to slow the flow of weapons between Russia and Korea, without the risk of direct war.

“[The Biden administration] is giving it more public attention, but on the policy side, I don’t really see any signs of what they’re trying to do with regard to this,” he said.

Original news source Credit: www.cnbc.com

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