By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — The United States on September 11 warned North Korea against any moves toward supplying Russia with weapons and threatened further sanctions against Pyongyang after the Kremlin confirmed that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will visit Russia “in the coming days” at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin announced the upcoming visit in a statement on September 11 following media reports saying Kim had departed aboard a special train bound for Russia for a summit with Putin, a sign of the deepening cooperation between two countries and leaders who have been isolated globally.
North Korea is one of the few countries to have openly supported Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, and Putin pledged last week to “expand bilateral ties in all respects in a planned way by pooling efforts.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in remarks posted by a Russian journalist after confirmation of the meeting that it will be a full-scale visit to “continue to strengthen our friendship” and further bilateral relations.
Peskov said the respective delegations will meet “and after that, if necessary, the leaders will continue their communication in a one-on-one format.”
A summit between Kim and Putin would likely focus on military cooperation and possibly a deal to supply arms, U.S. and South Korean officials and analysts told Reuters.
Despite denials by both Pyongyang and Moscow, the United States has said talks are“advancing actively” for North Korea to supply arms to Russia, which has expended vast stocks of weapons in more than 18 months of war in Ukraine.
The United States has said it would be a “huge mistake” for North Korea to supply Russia with weapons to use in Ukraine and warned Pyongyang that it would “pay a price.”
The State Department has said such arms transfers would violate multiple UN Security Council resolutions.
“We, of course, have aggressively enforced our sanctions against entities that fund Russia’s war effort, and we will continue to enforce those sanctions and will not hesitate to impose new sanctions appropriately,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
After decades of a complicated relationship, Russia and North Korea have been drawing closer to each other since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
North Korea has repeatedly blamed the United States for the war in Ukraine, claiming the West’s “hegemonic policy” justified a Russian offensive in Ukraine to protect itself. Kim has indicated he has an interest in sending construction workers to those areas to help with rebuilding efforts.
Russia — along with China — have blocked U.S.-led efforts at the UN Security Council to strengthen sanctions on North Korea over its intensifying missile tests while accusing Washington of worsening tensions with Pyongyang by expanding military exercises with South Korea and Japan.
The United States has been accusing North Korea since last year of providing Russia with arms, including artillery shells sold to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials have denied such claims.
In July, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited North Korea, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying Washington believes the aim of the visit was to secure weapons to aid the stalled invasion of Ukraine.
Kim’s last trip abroad in 2019 was to the Russian Far Eastern city of Vladivostok for his first summit with Putin after the collapse of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament talks with former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Kremlin said on September 9 that Putin will travel to Vladivostok, 6,500 kilometers east of Moscow, to attend the Eastern Economic Forum this week, but it did not say if he will meet Kim in the city.
Vladivostok is 130 kilometers from Russia’s border with North Korea. The Associated Press reported on September 11 that residents of the port city said they were anticipating a visit by Kim.
Kim does not travel abroad often and, when he does, it is often shrouded in secrecy and security. North Korea’s state media have made no mention of any plan by Kim to visit Russia.