North Korea’s Kim, Russia’s defense minister meet, tour defense expo

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday, state media KCNA reported, giving him a tour of defense expo featuring Pyongyang’s banned ballistic missiles as both sides pledged to boost ties.

Shoigu handed Kim a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin, the report said. Kim in turn thanked Putin for sending a military delegation led by Shoigu, adding the meeting deepened the “strategic and traditional” relations between North Korea and Russia.

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The Russian delegation and a Chinese delegation including Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong arrived in North Korea this week for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War celebrated in North Korea as “Victory Day.”

The groups are the first such prominent public visitors to North Korea since the start of the pandemic, and arrive as Pyongyang looks to deepen its ties with Beijing and Moscow, finding common ground in their rivalries with Washington.

Kim led Shoigu on a tour of a defense exhibition being held to mark the war anniversary displaying newly developed weapons and military equipment, KCNA said.

“Kim Jong Un shared with Sergei Shoigu comments on the worldwide trend of weaponry development and its strategy,” KCNA said.

Photographs published by KCNA showed Kim and his guests touring a large exhibition hall displaying some of the North’s ballistic missiles lying on multi-axle transporter launchers. Another image showed what analysts said appeared to be a new drone.

North Korea is banned from developing weapons that use ballistic missile technology by United Nations Security Council resolutions, backed in previous years by the council’s permanent members including Russia and China.

“[Kim] expressed his views on the issues of mutual concern in the struggle to safeguard the sovereignty, development and interests of the two countries from the high-handed and arbitrary practices of the imperialists and to realize international justice and peace,” it said.

“He repeatedly expressed belief that the Russian army and people would achieve big successes in the struggle for building a powerful country,” it said.

While KCNA did not directly mention the war in Ukraine, North Korea’s defense minister Kang Sun Nam said Pyongyang fully supported Russia’s “battle for justice” and to protect its sovereignty, the report said.

Shoigu praised the North Korean military as the “most powerful” in the world during a banquet in Pyongyang, KCNA reported.

North Korea has backed the Kremlin over its war with Ukraine and has shipped weapons including infantry rockets and missiles in support of Russia’s war, the White House has said.

North Korea denies it has conducted arms transactions with Russia.

Separately Kim hosted China’s Li Hongzhong who handed Kim a personal letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping, KCNA said.

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Russian delegation led by defense minister to visit North Korea

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