Tokyo The meeting place of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin is a surprise for observers. They met on Wednesday at the Vostochny cosmodrome in Siberia. Experts and media abroad had predicted a meeting in Vladivostok on the sidelines of an international economic forum.
During the welcome, Putin made it clear that the location had been chosen carefully. Russia will provide North Korea with support in building satellites, Putin said, according to Russian media. “That’s why we came to the Vostochny Cosmodrome.”
But all sorts of topics are discussed. The big question is what North Korea will deliver in return and whether Russia will also support its old ally in other ways.
North Korea’s leader Kim assured Putin that he would support Russia in the fight against the West. “Russia has begun a holy struggle to defend its sovereignty and security against hegemonic forces,” Kim told Putin.
“We will always support the decisions of President Putin and the Russian leadership,” he added. He is sure that the meeting is a further step in taking relations between the two countries to a new level.
The interest in joining forces is relatively new. Like China, Russia is an old ally of North Korea. But the small country always tried to maintain its independence and play the two great powers off against each other for its own benefit.
Beijing is far more important for Kim, as China is by far North Korea’s most important trading partner. Russia’s ammunition shortage now gives Kim a chance to tap into a new source of aid.
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North Korea can supply these weapons to Russia
- North Korea offered Russia help last year. In addition to weapons, there was even talk of sending soldiers or construction workers speculated to support Russia in Ukraine.
- North Korea is particularly interesting as a weapons supplier. artillery plays an important role in the war in Ukraine. And Russia is suffering from supply bottlenecks that North Korea could compensate for. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, the small country with only 26 million inhabitants has over 20,000 artillery pieces, which American experts believe is a world record.
- Particularly interesting ammunition from North Korea because many North Korean weapons are copies of Soviet systems, said Ukrainian expert Oleh Katkov, editor-in-chief of the military portal Defense Express in Kiev, in a radio interview this week. These include 120-millimeter mortar shells as well as 122-millimeter and 152-millimeter projectiles that are compatible with old Soviet calibers.
- It would also be possible for Russia to do so Long-range missiles with which Kim regularly spreads fear.
The problem: North Korea’s stocks are large but old. “The stocks have probably not been significantly renewed since 1991,” said Katkov.
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Other experts therefore assume that North Korea would supply ammunition for small arms and machine guns.
North Korea is hoping for this in return
- Putin’s offer, at Satellites Helping is certainly based on a wish from North Korea. The country has attempted to launch satellites into space twice recently and failed each time. Russia, for its part, not only has reliable space rockets, but also satellite technology that could benefit North Korea.
- North Korea would also be helped if Russia were more involved Circumvention of sanctions could help that the United Nations has imposed on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile program.
- Deliveries from would certainly be even more welcome food, oil or coal. Not only do many North Koreans suffer from chronic malnutrition, which has been exacerbated by the lockdown during the pandemic. Gasoline and electricity are also extremely scarce. Tractors that exist in the countryside are often idle, oxen pull carts or plows. And electricity comes from the socket fairly reliably, especially in the capital Pyongyang, but only sporadically in many parts of the country.
- According to Western experts, North Korea could also military aid to be interested in. For example, Russia could help modernize the aging North Korean army.
- Also technical assistance in the construction of Long-range missiles would certainly be welcome. In the USA, an expert even assumes that North Korea’s new Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile is based on Russian technology. But his analysis is controversial.
- One diplomatic appreciation is another point that Kim has already achieved with the summit. Since his highly staged but ultimately failed talks with then US President Donald Trump, the young dictator, who grew up temporarily in Switzerland, has been isolated again at home in Pyongyang. But with Russia’s newfound affection for North Korea, new doors are opening. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea in July and, according to Western sources, asked for ammunition. He also explained that the old partners are considering holding joint military exercises for the first time.
South Korean intelligence even said that Shoigu had suggested joint maneuvers with China. It remains to be seen whether China would agree to this.
That would also be surprising with regard to North Korea. Until now, North Korea has preferred to insist on its independence because it distrusts its allied neighbors.
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