Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation to visit North Korea, Pyongyang state media said on Thursday, as he and Kim Jong Un toasted “cooperation and friendship between our countries” during a meeting in Russia.
Kim is on a visit to Russia’s Far East as Putin seeks to bolster alliances with other leaders ostracised by Western countries.
The North Korean leader is also due to oversee a display of Russian warships during his visit, Putin said, to “demonstrate the capabilities of the Pacific Fleet”.
Western allies have raised concerns about a possible arms agreement between Russia and North Korea, as Moscow’s war in Ukraine grinds on.
After a meeting between the two leaders on Wednesday, “Kim Jong Un courteously invited Putin to visit the DPRK at a convenient time”, according to the state-run KCNA news agency, which referred to the country by its official name.
“Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship.”
Kim told Putin on Wednesday he was sure Russia would win a “great victory” over its enemies.
“There took place a tete-a-tete between Kim Jong Un and Putin after the extended talks”, according to KCNA, and Kim left a message in a visitor’s book which read, “The glory of Russia that produced the first conquerors of space will be immortal.”
Russia became a pariah in the West after launching full-scale hostilities in Ukraine last year and has looked to strengthen alliances with other leaders facing similar isolation.
Putin praised the “strengthening of cooperation and friendship between our countries”, while hosting Kim at a spaceport in Russia’s Far East, and told reporters he saw “possibilities” for military cooperation with North Korea.
He had earlier said Moscow could help Pyongyang build satellites.
In Washington, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said any cooperation would be “quite troubling and would potentially be in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions”.
US officials and experts have said Russia is interested in buying North Korean ammunition to use in Ukraine.
While Kim was in Russia, Pyongyang fired two ballistic missiles on Wednesday, the South Korean military said, the latest in a string of sanctions-busting tests.
Raising a toast during an official dinner following one-on-one talks, Kim told Putin, “We are confident that the Russian army and people will win a great victory in the just fight to punish evil groups who pursue hegemony, expansion, and ambition.”
He also praised the “heroic” Russian army.