Kim Jong Un suspected on North Korean train bound for Russia

September 11, 2023

South Korean media reported Monday that a North Korean train presumed to be carrying Kim Jong Un has departed for Russia. 

Citing unnamed sources, South Korean media said that the train likely left Pyongyang Sunday evening, and that a meeting between Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin was possible as soon as Tuesday, though neither South Korea’s Presidential Office nor its National Intelligence Service immediately confirmed that reporting. 

U.S. intelligence last week signaled that Kim and Putin were arranging the upcoming meeting.

Putin is hoping to secure artillery shells and antitank missiles from Kim. In exchange, North Korea is looking for advanced satellite technology as well as food aid for his people. 

The meeting will reportedly take place in Vladivostok, which is just 50 kilometers from North Korea’s border with Russia. Kim will likely travel there by armored train for his September 10-13 visit. 

Kim was last seen in public images published by North Korean state media, attending the launch of what Kim claimed to be the North’s first “nuclear attack submarine.” Analysts, however, quickly cast doubts on his assertions that the vessel was capable of launching nuclear-armed ballistic missiles. 

Russian and North Korean relations have grown tighter since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, and the U.S. has been accusing Pyongyang since last year of providing arms to Russia, including the sale of artillery shells to the Wagner PMC mercenary group.

Though both nations have denied the United States’ claims, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea in July. Kim invited him to an arms exhibition and a military parade during which ICBMs designed to target the U.S. mainland were showcased.

Last month, the White House warned that Putin and Kim had been exchanging letters regarding an arms deal, with National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby cautioning that “high-level discussions” were likely to follow. 

Another National Security Counsel spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, has issued a statement urging North Korea “to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia.”

PHOTO: North Korea-Russia Summit, April 2019

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