North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to hold a summit in Russia, signaling a potential increase in military cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow. The official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) of North Korea confirmed on Tuesday that Kim left Pyongyang for Russia on Sunday afternoon, traveling on his armored train alongside high-ranking officials from North Korea’s ruling party and armed forces, as reported by Yonhap news agency.
KCNA stated that Kim “departed on Sunday afternoon to visit the Russian Federation” without specifying whether the train had crossed the border. The agency also reported that Kim would meet with Comrade Putin during his visit. The Kremlin confirmed that Kim would visit Russia “in the coming days” at Putin’s invitation, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
Photographs released by North Korea’s state media depicted Kim accompanied by Pyongyang’s Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui, as well as senior military officials Ri Pyong-chol and Pak Jong-chon. State media showcased images of Kim walking past honor guards and crowds of civilians holding national flags and flowers. There were also photos of him waving from his green-and-yellow armored train before it departed from the station.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, a group of senior officials bid the leader a warm farewell. Unidentified Russian regional officials cited by Japanese broadcaster TBS reported that Kim’s train had crossed the border and arrived in the border town of Khasan.
A brief statement on the Kremlin’s website on Monday confirmed that the visit was at Putin’s invitation and would take place “in the coming days.” KCNA announced that the leaders would meet without specifying when or where.
One potential meeting location could be the eastern Russian city of Vladivostok, where Putin arrived on Monday to participate in an international forum lasting through Wednesday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. Vladivostok, situated approximately 425 miles (680 kilometers) north of Pyongyang, was also the site of Putin’s initial meeting with Kim in 2019.
This visit marks Kim’s first foreign trip since the COVID-19 pandemic, which had led North Korea to impose strict border controls for over three years to protect its limited healthcare system. While Kim has shown a preference for using planes over his famously flight-averse father, he has also employed his personal train for previous meetings with Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and former U.S. President Donald Trump, reviving a symbol of his family’s dynastic rule.
In the meantime, the United States has issued an official statement urging North Korean leader Kim Jong Un not to sell arms to Russia. A statement by White House read, “We urge North Korea to uphold its commitments and refrain from selling arms to Russia.”