Both Moscow and Pyongyang have remained tight-lipped regarding Kim’s rumored visit, with South Korean media suggesting that the secretive leader has already departed. In Russia‘s Pacific port city, residents are contemplating the possibility of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s arrival, an event that the United States is anxious about due to concerns it could lead to increased weapon supplies for Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine.
As of now, Kim’s trip remains unverified. The initial report surfaced in The New York Times, citing unidentified US officials, and South Korea’s intelligence agency acknowledged the possibility. However, both North Korean and Russian state media have remained conspicuously silent on the matter.
The Kremlin has stated that it has “nothing to say” about the situation, even though President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to address an economic forum in Vladivostok, Russia’s Pacific port located 6,500 kilometers (4,000 miles) east of Moscow, in the coming days.
A confidential source relayed to Reuters news agency that a Kim visit is anticipated in the days ahead. Russia’s Interfax news agency also quoted several anonymous sources indicating that Kim was expected to visit Russia’s far east shortly.
According to South Korean broadcaster YTN, Kim Jong Un appears to have departed for Russia via train, a development reported on Monday, citing a government source.
Vladivostok lies just 130 kilometers (80 miles) from Russia’s border with North Korea. If the visit indeed materializes, it would mark only his second known visit to Russia.
In Vladivostok, an increased police presence was observed on the streets, although no North Korean flags had been displayed, in contrast to the previous visit when the city was adorned with the red five-pointed stars reminiscent of the communist country’s flag.
At Vladivostok’s central square, near a monument honoring Red Army soldiers, Russian locals expressed anticipation for Kim’s potential visit.
“Both countries project strength to the entire world and can stand independently. So, there is a commonality,” remarked Fyodor, a resident of Vladivostok who declined to provide his surname.
Others pointed to the economic forum attended by Putin.
“A forum is currently underway, so it all aligns – he is likely to come,” stated Nikolai, who also chose not to disclose his last name. “Security will once again be trailing his limousine.”
The historical backdrop of North Korea’s relationship with Moscow dates back to the Cold War, during which Moscow extended support to North Korea. However, relations became complex when China‘s Mao Zedong diverged from the Kremlin over their approach to peaceful coexistence with the Western world.
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russo-North Korean relations cooled amid the tumultuous events in Russia. China has since been regarded as the most influential player in Pyongyang.
The United States has expressed concerns about what it characterizes as progressing arms negotiations between North Korea and Russia. White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has urged Kim not to provide weapons to Russia that could potentially be used against Ukrainians.
Analysts suggest that North Korea possesses substantial stockpiles of artillery shells, rockets, and small arms ammunition that could assist Russia in replenishing its vast supplies, exhausted during over 18 months of conflict in Ukraine.
In exchange, Russia could potentially offer grain, oil, and military technology to Kim Jong Un’s regime, as it seeks to develop capabilities, including nuclear-powered submarines and military reconnaissance satellites.
“Perhaps they will align with us, but a similar alignment with the US seems unlikely,” stated Yelena, a tourist from Khabarovsk, a Russian city situated on the Amur River bordering China.
While the US has accused North Korea of supplying arms to Russia, it remains unclear whether any such deliveries have occurred. Nevertheless, both Russia and North Korea have denied these allegations but pledged to deepen their defense cooperation.
One of the most conspicuous signs of this cooperation materialized in July when Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang. During his visit, he toured a weapons exhibition that included North Korea’s banned ballistic missiles. Later, he stood alongside Kim Jong Un, saluting as the missiles rolled by during a military parade.
“He [Kim Jong Un] is such an enigmatic figure, so I don’t even know if he will come or not,” remarked Svetlana, a resident of Vladivostok. “But I believe he must come – we are witnessing some changes, and it must be intriguing for him to witness what is happening in Russia.”
Reuters news agency contributed to this article.
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