North Korean state media announced Thursday that Russia's President Putin has accepted a formal invitation from Kim Jong Un to pay a state visit to Pyongyang.
Kim hailed the "historic meeting and talks" with Putin on Wednesday, and he's expected to be in Russia for further travel to to Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where he'll visit an aircraft plant. Putin is said to have "gratefully" received Kim's invitation to visit his country.
⚡️Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un were given a tour of the key facilities of the Vostochny Cosmodrome today pic.twitter.com/Sn8m8AbPeC— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) September 13, 2023
The two leaders have exchanged gifts, as Putin presented Kim with a Russian-made rifle "of the highest quality," - while in return Putin received a North Korean rifle. Interestingly Putin also presented his North Korean counterpart with a glove from a space suit, after the two toured a space development center in the far east.
Seoul meanwhile says it is ultra-alarmed at the prospect of military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang.
"We express our deep concern and regret that despite repeated warnings from the international community, North Korea and Russia discussed military cooperation issues, including satellite development, during their summit,” said Lim Soo-suk, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, as cited in AP.
"Any science and technology cooperation that contributes to nuclear weapons and missile development, including satellite systems that involve ballistic missile technologies, runs against U.N. Security Council resolutions," he told reporters.
At the White House, NSC spokesman John Kirby issued a threat of sanctions, warning against North Korean weaponry and ammo for the Ukraine war:
"No nation on the planet, nobody, should be helping Mr. Putin kill innocent Ukrainians," Kirby said. If the countries decide to move forward with an arms deal, the U.S. will take measure of the arrangement and "deal with it appropriately," he said.
As for a potential upcoming Putin trip to North Korea, no timeline was given, but it certainly suggests that the West's worst fears are indeed coming to fruition - namely a deeper Russia-DPRK relationship based on military ties and weapons deals.
NEW: A newly-released propaganda book shows rare photos of gifts from across the world to the North Korean leadership.— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) January 31, 2023
A hunting rifle from Putin and an NBA basketball signed by Michael Jordan are among the many unique items gifted to the Kim family.https://t.co/KONo3g22Dc pic.twitter.com/04VcYVOnBd
However, if such a deal goes through, the Kremlin would face the diplomatic and trade wrath of South Korea, something it might not want to risk at this point at a moment Russia continues enduring sanctions from the West and efforts (thus far largely failing) to isolate it on the world stage.