According to US intelligence officials, Kim Jong-un will travel to Russia on an armored train to sign a possible arms deal with Vladimir Putin.
The North Korean leader is reportedly seeking satellite and nuclear submarine technology from Russia in exchange for artillery shells and anti-tank missiles to aid the Russian president in his war in Ukraine.
US and Western officials said Kim would travel by train to meet Putin in Vladivostok, on Russia’s east coast.
The meeting is likely to take place on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum, a Russian investment conference, between September 10 and 13, but officials suggested Kim might also visit Moscow.
Putin hopes to bolster his military arsenal after a series of major setbacks in the war, including Ukraine’s recent successes in breaking through Russia’s first line of defense in a counter-offensive aimed at cutting off Crimea.
Ukraine has also stepped up its drone strikes against Russia itself, reportedly destroying transport in the western city of Pskov last week.
Officials suggested to the newspaper that Kim Putin is also likely to request food aid to feed the North Korean people, who have become “increasingly desperate” in recent months, according to the United Nations.
Possible triple military exercises with China
Reports of a meeting between the leaders come after the White House warned they had exchanged letters over the prospect of an arms deal.
John F. Kirby, of the US government’s National Security Council, said talks are “actively progressing” as Russia looks to its remaining allies for military aid.
“After these negotiations, high-level discussions can continue in the coming months,” he said on Wednesday.
South Korean officials warned that Putin has suggested that North Korea participate in triple military exercises with China after the Russian ambassador to Pyongyang said a stronger military alliance between the countries “seems appropriate.”
Putin has previously thanked Kim for his “strong support” of the war in Ukraine, questioning the regime’s denials that it has already armed Russia.
“Solidarity with Russia on important international issues highlights our common interests,” Putin said in July.
North Korea has a range of powerful nuclear weapons, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) with a range of 15,000 km.
But the country has failed to launch a spy satellite twice and is believed to be seeking help from Russia for a third attempt
On Monday, the Russian president vowed he would not reinstate the grain deal with Ukraine, which is blocking food supplies to many poor countries, unless the West acceded to his demands to lift sanctions on Russian food exports.
Cooperation between Russia and its allies is expected to be a talking point among Western leaders at this week’s G20 summit, which begins in New Delhi on Saturday.
Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, is not expected to attend. China, which also borders North Korea, has tried to remain neutral in the war but has supported Russia’s economy and arms industry.
The US is urging North Korea to end arms talks with Russia
The White House declined to confirm that it had direct intelligence that a meeting was planned between Kim and Putin.
But Adrienne Watson, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said the US believed North Korea expected a “leader-level diplomatic engagement” with Russia over weapons.
“As we have publicly warned, arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively progressing,” she said.
“Last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to the DPRK to try to convince Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia.
“We have information that Kim Jong-Un expects these discussions to continue, including leadership-level diplomatic engagement in Russia. We urge the DPRK to cease arms negotiations with Russia and abide by Pyongyang’s public commitments not to supply or sell arms to Russia.”
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