Kim Jong-un will reportedly travel to Russia this month to meet Vladimir Putin and discuss the possibility of supplying weapons to the Kremlin for the war in Ukraine.
A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said details of the expected meeting were still unclear, but added that it was likely to take place in the Russian port city of Vladivostok, given its proximity to North Korea.
Kim, who rarely leaves the capital Pyongyang, is expected to travel to Russia’s Pacific coast by armoured train, according to military intelligence first reported by the New York Times.
The Eastern Economic Forum is scheduled to run from 10 to 13 Septemberon the campus of Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, which both leaders are due to attend. Kim also plans to visit Pier 33, where naval ships from Russia’s Pacific fleet dock.
The meeting comes as Kim and Putin, who first met in 2019, seek greater military and economic cooperation to counter their growing international isolation prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the North’s ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programmes.
Putin is keen to secure North Korean artillery shells and antitank missiles, while Kim is hoping the Kremlin will reciprocate with technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, officials told the New York Times.
Pyongyang unsuccessfully fired two space launch vehicles, each carrying a military reconnaissance satellite in late May and August. The regime has said it will attempt another launch in October, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said.
Kim is also seeking food aid amid reports of chronic food shortages and high rates of malnutrition among North Korean children under five.
The planned trip comes amid speculation that Russia has proposed that North Korea participate in joint naval exercises with China.
The US national security council spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, noted that the Russian defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, had traveled to North Korea recently seeking to acquire additional munitions for the war in Ukraine.
“We have information that Kim Jong-un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia,” Watson said.
She added that the US was urging North Korea “to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia”.
Kim gave Shoigu a tour of the country’s newest and most advanced weaponry, including ballistic missiles and spy drones, at a large defence expo held in North Korea earlier this year.
The White House said last week that it had intelligence indicating that Putin and Kim had swapped letters following Shoigu’s visit.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Joe Biden did not respond when questioned about the developments.
The US has previously warned that North Korea could provide more weapons to Russia, whose forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
The White House national security spokesperson, John Kirby, said last week that the US was concerned that arms negotiations between the two countries were actively advancing.
The US, Britain, South Korea and Japan have said that any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would violate UN security council resolutions.