Vladimir Putin has said Russia is considering and discussing some military cooperation with North Korea, following a summit at which that country’s leader Kim Jong Un appeared to endorse Moscow’s war on Ukraine.
The leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east, as both countries face international isolation.
Moscow is in need of fresh supplies of ammunition and shells after more than 18 months of war in Ukraine has left its military battered, while North Korea, which has faced years of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program, is short of everything from hard cash and food to missile technology.
Here’s what happened at the summit:
Kim signaled support for Russia’s invasion: Without naming Ukraine, Kim said the “Russian military and its people will inherit the shining tradition of victory” and demonstrate their reputation on the frontline of “military operation,” the euphemistic phrasing Moscow uses to describe its illegal invasion of Ukraine.
“I will always be standing with Russia,” Kim said, praising Moscow for having “stood up against the hegemonic forces” to defend its sovereignty and security, a veiled reference to the United States and the West.
What North Korea wants in return: Putin signaled a willingness to assist North Korea in developing its space and satellite program. North Korea has made space technology a priority — but has some ways to go, having tried and failed twice this year to launch a spy satellite into orbit.
Kim has also stressed the role of military satellites as a means to protect national safety and territorial stability and has spoken of their strategic value when deploying military force preemptively, North Korean state media reported in April.
Providing this technology to North Korea would be in violation of international sanctions, aimed at hampering Pyongyang’s ability to build a fully functioning nuclear weapons and ballistic missile force.
The meeting was at a space center: During the tour, the two leaders inspected the complex where Russia plans to launch its next generation of spacecraft. The facilities were built to receive launch vehicles, conduct pre-launch preparations, launches, and post-launch operations, state news agency TASS reported.
“Meeting at Russia’s eastern spaceport is particularly provocative because it suggests that Putin may offer sanctions-violating satellite launch technology in exchange for North Korean munitions that Moscow would employ in its illegal war in Ukraine,” Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, told CNN.
North Korea fires ballistic missiles: Hours before the summit, North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles into the waters off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Analysts say it’s unusual for Pyongyang to conduct a launch while Kim is out of the country. North Korea may be intending “to show that the military maintains readiness with uninterrupted command and control,” Easley, the professor of international studies, said.