North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Arrives In Russia For Putin Summit


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia on Tuesday where he is set to meet with President Vladimir Putin and discuss a potential arms deal, a closely watched summit amid that adds to mounting international concern over Moscow’s deepening ties with Pyongyang.

Key Facts

Kim entered Russia’s eastern Primorsky from North Korea on Tuesday morning, Russian state media Ria Novosti reported.

He is traveling on his private armored train and left Pyongyang for Russia on Sunday.

The North Korean leader briefly left his train to greet local officials at the Russian border station of Khasan, Reuters reported, before continuing his journey into Russia.

Kim is visiting Russia at Putin’s invitation, the Kremlin said on Monday, and is presumably traveling to Russia’s eastern port city of Vladivostok, where the Russian leader arrived on Monday for the Eastern Economic Forum.

Photos of Kim and his delegation released by state media on Tuesday suggest military matters are likely to dominate the summit, according to analysts speaking to Reuters, who identified a number of high level diplomats, military commanders and arms industry officials accompanying Kim on the trip.

What To Watch For

The precise nature, time and location of the meeting have not been disclosed. Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East is very likely to be the location of the meeting—it is relatively close to North Korea and is the site of Putin and Kim’s first and only meeting in 2019—and Putin is scheduled to remain in Vladivostok until at least Tuesday, when he is expected to deliver a speech. According to Russian state outlet TASS, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters the meeting would happen in “the next few days” but would not specify where. Peskov said it would be a “full-blown visit” that would potentially include one-to-one meetings between the two leaders, with talks set to touch upon “sensitive” areas and Moscow willing to discuss UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang. A formal dinner is also planned to honor Kim.

What We Don’t Know

Kim rarely leaves North Korea and the trip marks his first foreign visit since the country closed its borders in 2020 during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic. The trip is significant and will be watched closely by the international community. The Kremlin’s support of Pyongyang could invite harsh repercussions and could sour already soured global tensions. An arms deal could break the international sanctions placed on Pyongyang for its weapons program—which Russia voted to support on the UN Security Council—and the U.S. has warned further sanctions will be triggered in the event of a deal. The Kremlin has dismissed Washington’s involvement and Peskov said talks will be “guided by the interests of our two countries.”

Big Number

10. That’s how many foreign trips Kim Jong Un has made since taking power after his father’s death in 2011, including his most recent visit to Russia. He primarily, though not exclusively, travels by a luxurious armored train—which contrasts starkly to the poverty pervasive in North Korea—and is reportedly incredibly wary of security threats when traveling abroad. He has made four trips to China and one visit each to Vietnam and Singapore. Kim has also crossed the inter-Korean border twice—he is the only North Korean leader to cross into the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone—once to meet with the then South Korean President Moon Jae-in and again in 2019 for talks with then-president Donald Trump.

Further Reading

Putin Celebrates ‘Friendship’ With Pyongyang As North Korea Deepens Ties With Russia And China (Forbes)

Kim Jong Un Has Many Reasons to Meet With Vladimir Putin (WSJ)

Does North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un always travel by train? (Reuters)

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Will Meet Putin In Russia ‘In Coming Days,’ Kremlin Confirms (Forbes)

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