Putin ‘accepts’ Kim’s invitation to North Korea, US reacts
Kim Jong Un has extended an invitation to Russian president Vladimir Putin to visit North Korea during a rare summit.
The invitation has evoked U.S. concerns that a revived Moscow-Pyongyang axis could bolster Russia’s military in Ukraine and provide Kim sensitive missile technology.
A North Korean state news agency, KCNA, reported that Putin has accepted the invitation, but this could not be immediately confirmed from Kremlin.
While referring to each other as “comrades”, Putin and Kim toasted to their friendship on Wednesday with Russian wine after the 70-year-old Russian president showed Kim, 39, around Russia’s most modern space launch facility and they held talks alongside their defence ministers.
“At the end of the reception, Kim Jong Un courteously invited Putin to visit the DPRK at a convenient time,” KCNA said, referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s formal name.
KCNA further said “Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship,” KCNA said.
The United States and its allies are wary of the burgeoning friendship between Kim and Putin, accusing North Korea of providing arms to Russia.
Russia and North Korea refuted the claims, though they exchanged pledges to strengthen defence cooperation, and during a visit to North Korea in July, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu was shown banned ballistic missiles by Kim.
Kim is due on Thursday to visit military and civilian aviation factories in the Russian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and to inspect Russia’s Pacific fleet in Vladivostok, Putin said.
North Korea was founded in September 1948, and Soviet Union backed its formation, while Moscow had supported it for decades during the Cold War, but the support waned after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
That may be why Kim on Wednesday toasted to Putin’s health, to the victory of “great Russia” and to Korean-Russian friendship.
He predicted victory for Moscow in its “sacred fight” with the West.
Asked whether Russia could simply remove sanctions on North Korea, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia remained a responsible member of the UN Security Council.
But Peskov added that Moscow would develop its relations with North Korea in accordance with its own interests. Russian state television said the West’s rebukes over the summit were typical “hypocrisy” and pointed to U.S. military supplies to its allies in Asia.
The U.S. State Department said the Biden administration “won’t hesitate” to impose additional sanctions on Russia and North Korea if they conclude any new arms deals.
South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Young-ho, who is in charge of relations with the North, expressed “deep concerns” over military cooperation and possible arms transactions between Pyongyang and Moscow, saying the two countries were apparently continuing to pursue “some kind of” a military deal.
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