In this photo distributed by Sputnik agency, Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region/Photo: AFP
SEOUL: Russian President Vladimir Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at Russia’s most advanced spaceport amid warnings from the U.S. and South Korea against a potential arms transfer.
Kim pledged his “full and unconditional support” for “all decisions” by Putin, in an apparent reference to Russia’s war on Ukraine, as the two leaders held talks at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region of Russia’s far east, near the Chinese border.
The meeting came as media reports quoted unidentified Western officials as saying Russia hopes to receive North Korean artillery shells for use in its war in Ukraine, while Pyongyang appears to want advanced technology for its satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as food assistance from Moscow.
“We need to discuss the issues of economic cooperation and humanitarian issues, as well as the situation in the region,” Putin told Kim.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday the United States has concerns about any kind of potential defense cooperation between Russia and North Korea.
Kirby said the U.S. is carefully monitoring the contacts between Moscow and Pyongyang.
“No nation on the planet, nobody should be helping Mr. Putin kill innocent Ukrainians. And if they decide to move forward with some sort of arms deals, well, obviously we’ll take a measure of that, and we’ll deal with it appropriately,” he said.
At the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Putin and Kim first toured the spaceport, where reporters asked if Russia would help North Korea build satellites.
“That’s why we came here,” Putin said, according to Russian state media. “The leader of the DPRK shows great interest in rocket engineering; they are also trying to develop space.”
DPRK refers to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
As Kim visited Russia Wednesday, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its eastern coast. South Korea’s military said the missiles were launched from near Pyongyang and flew about 650 kilometers.