It’s a historic handshake to say the least, especially given the context. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived this Wednesday morning at the Vostotchny cosmodrome, in eastern Russia, where is Russian President Vladimir Putinwith whom he exchanged a handshake, Russian news agencies announced.
They will hold talks about “commercial relations” and “international affairs” at the spacecraft launch base, Russian news agencies reported. “We will discuss all subjects without rushing. We have time,” Vladimir Putin said, according to the agencies.
The meeting of the two leaders could lead, according to Washington, to an arms sales agreement to support the Russian offensive in Ukraine.
They visited a rocket embly and launch site at the Vostochny cosmodrome in eastern Russia.
“The leaders inspected sites of the new cosmodrome: an embly workshop for the Angara launcher (new generation of Russian rockets), a Soyuz-2 launch site and a launch site under construction for Angara,” the Kremlin said in a statement.
Talking about “sensitive subjects”
A few moments earlier, Russian agencies had reported the arrival of the two leaders on site. The Russian head of state had refused to communicate his program on site in advance. The two men must in particular talk about “sensitive subjects”, had indicated in advance the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov.
Departing Pyongyang on Sunday evening aboard an armored train, Kim Jong Un is making his first trip abroad since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. He had already met Vladimir Putin during his previous trip abroad, to Vladivostok in 2019.
North Korea wants to develop rockets
The choice of the cosmodrome to hold this meeting is symbolic. Vladimir Putin raised the possibility of Russia helping North Korea build satellites, after Pyongyang recently failed twice to put a military spy satellite into orbit.
“That’s why we came here. North Korea’s leader shows great interest in rocket technology. They are trying to develop their space program,” Vladimir Putin said, according to Russian news agencies.
An Chan-il, a defector-turned-researcher who heads the Global Institute for North Korea Studies, said before the meeting that “the spaceport seems to be the optimal location because it meets mutual interests, such as the provision of satellite technology requested by North Korea.
Russia is interested in North Korea’s stockpile of artillery shells, likely used in Ukraine, while Pyongyang is seeking help to modernize its Soviet-era equipment, particularly for its army. air and its navy, he added.
“If North Korea’s multiple rocket launchers and other artillery shells are supplied to Russia in large quantities, it could have a significant impact on the war in Ukraine,” he added.
Two new missiles fired
North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, while leader Kim Jong Un is in Russia.
North Korea fired “two short-range ballistic missiles from the Sunan area towards the East Sea between 11:43 and 11:53 today” (2:43 and 2:53 GMT Tuesday), the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Seoul Joint Forces, using the Korean name for the Sea of Japan.
“Our armed forces have strengthened their surveillance and vigilance in anticipation of other launches, while remaining ready to intervene in close collaboration with the United States,” indicated the same source. Tokyo also confirmed this launch of two ballistic missiles.