Kim Jong Un is set to travel to Russia, following an invitation extended by his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
This development, announced jointly by Pyongyang and Moscow on Monday, has generated significant international interest, with the United States expressing concerns that this meeting may result in a potential arms agreement.
The US government had previously hinted at the possibility of such a summit, suggesting that Russia might seek new arms suppliers for its involvement in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
However, neither nation has disclosed specific details regarding the upcoming meeting’s timing, location, or agenda.
The Kremlin’s statement indicated that Kim’s official visit to Russia would occur “in the coming days,” while North Korean state media simply mentioned they would “meet and have a talk.”
Speculation suggests that the meeting might occur in Vladivostok, a city in Russia’s far eastern region, where the two leaders first convened in April 2019.
Recent reports suggest that Putin arrived in Vladivostok, and Kim is en route via an upscale armored train, his preferred mode of travel.
This journey marks Kim’s first foreign trip since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as North Korea has only recently begun relaxing its travel restrictions. It will also be his 10th foreign trip since assuming power in 2011.
Kim’s previous international engagements primarily occurred between 2018 and 2019, when he held three meetings with then-US President Donald Trump in Singapore, Hanoi, and the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.
Additionally, Kim conducted four visits to China with President Xi Jinping and one trip to the DMZ to meet with then-South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Vladivostok, situated just 130 km (80 miles) from North Korea’s border, has historical significance as a meeting point for these leaders.
Notably, Kim’s preferred mode of travel has been his armored train, though he has occasionally used planes and cars for his foreign trips.
This visit holds potential significance as it could lead to North Korea acquiring weapons restricted by the United Nations and US sanctions due to its weapons of mass destruction program.
The White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, has cautioned North Korea about the consequences of striking an arms deal with Russia, emphasizing that there will be a price to pay, though specific repercussions remain unspecified.
These negotiations come when the Russian military is in dire need of supplies after more than a year and a half of involvement in the Ukrainian conflict has left it depleted and battered.