North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is preparing to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin, probably this month, to discuss selling Russia artillery shells and antitank weapons to use in Ukraine, The New York Times reported Monday, citing U.S. and allied officials. Kim and Putin will likely meet in Vladivostok, just north of Russia’s narrow land border with North Korea on Russia’s Pacific Coast, when Russia hosts the Eastern Economic Forum Sept. 10 to 14.
Whether or not she meeting happens, asking North Korea for weapons “has to be horrifically embarrassing for Russian leadership, for the Kremlin,” said CNN national security analyst Steve Hall, a former CIA chief of Russia operations. “It would be like the United States turning to Uruguay and saying, ‘Hey, can you help us out on this war?'”
Arms negotiations have been “actively advancing” since Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visiting Pyongyang in July and a North Korean delegation visited Russia in August, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said Monday evening. Kim “expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia.”
The U.S. has warned for months that North Korea is preparing to sell munitions to Russia and did so so late last year, providing infantry rockets and missiles used by Wagner mercenary forces in Ukraine, While House national security spokesperson John Kirby said last week.
The U.S. intelligence pointing to an upcoming meeting between Putin and Kim has not been declassified, but several major news organizations published similar reports from U.S. officials.
That publicity is a “strong reason why the visit is now unlikely to take place,” John Everard, a former British ambassador to Pyongyang, told BBC News. “Kim Jong Un is completely paranoid about his personal security. He goes to great lengths to keep his movements secret and if it’s known that he’s planning to go to Vladivostok to meet President Putin, he’s likely just to cancel the whole thing.”
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