By Athena Papakosta

The leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, arrives in Vladivostok where he will meet with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin. The Russian president is already there. Kim Jong Un does not travel alone. An unknown number of senior government and military officials are accompanying the North Korean leader on this rare – overseas – trip.

The meeting between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un is expected to take place within the day or tomorrow, Wednesday. Already the Kremlin, with a brief statement – has confirmed the visit of the North Korean leader to Russia, noting that Putin and Kim Jong Un will lead the talks of the delegations of the two countries and “could have a one-on-one meeting, if necessary” adding that President Putin will also host an official dinner.

The West does not hide its strong concern about the “advanced” – as they are characterized – negotiations between the two leaders to supply Moscow with weapons in the Ukraine war. According to the White House, negotiations between Moscow and Pyongyang for the supply of armaments are actively proceeding, while the representative of the National Security Council, John Kirby, underlines that the Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, tried last July to convince North Korea to to supply Russia with weapons when he recently visited the country himself.

According to analysts, Moscow is in need of armaments and is likely to turn to Pyongyang for conventional weapons including artillery shells and missiles. At the same time, North Korea could receive in return grain, oil and military technology, including nuclear-powered submarines and military reconnaissance satellites.

If the two leaders do meet, it will be Kim Jong Un’s first international trip in at least four years and his first since the coronavirus pandemic. More specifically, it was in 2019 when he again visited Vladivostok to meet with the Russian president.

The relationship between Russia and North Korea has changed from… cold to… hot as on the one hand Moscow needs help in its war in Ukraine and on the other hand Pyongyang needs to strengthen its traditional ties and with Russia but also with China while Washington insists on joint military exercises with South Korea and Japan.

Earlier yesterday, Monday, North Korea’s state media released photos of Kim Jong Un saluting from his armored train before it left the station. According to information transmitted by the international news networks, the North Korean Foreign Minister, Cho San Hui, and the Marshals of the People’s Army, Ri Pyong Chol and Park Yong Chun, have also boarded the same train.

The United States has accused North Korea for a year of supplying weapons to Russia, which it said was selling them to the Wagner mercenary group. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have repeatedly denied and dismissed the allegations. However, there are also the voices of analysts who explain that the Putin-Kim Jong Un meeting is aimed more at symbolic gains than at the agreement of a military cooperation. As they explain, Moscow has always kept its military “secrets” even from China, which always remains its main global partner.