Kim said his visit “is a clear expression of how our party and government put a high value on the strategic importance of DPRK-Russia relations,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Wednesday, using the official abbreviation for North Korea.
With Kim’s trip, friendship and cooperation between the two countries would move to a “fresh higher level,” the report said.
The Kremlin said the two leaders would meet after an economic forum at the Russian port city of Vladivostok this week, and Putin on Tuesday announced plans to visit the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s main spaceport since 2016.
Japanese outlet Kyodo News reported, citing unnamed Russian officials, Putin and Kim would meet on Wednesday afternoon at the spaceport is in Russia’s far eastern Amur region, some 900 miles by road north of Vladivostok.
The two leaders are expected to discuss increased support for each other, including the potential exchange of arms, labor and food, as Russia runs low on ammunition in its war against Ukraine and North Korea seeks to boost its dire economy.
Meanwhile, North Korea fired a suspected ballistic missile toward the sea off its East coast, the South Korean military said Wednesday. Japanese media reported it fell outside Japanese waters.
Kim left Pyongyang on his famously slow-moving train on Sunday afternoon along with top government and party officials, state media reported. Those who appeared to board the train included defense chief Kang Sun Nam and munitions industry department director Jo Chun Ryong, according to an analysis of state media photos by NK Pro, a monitoring website based in Seoul.
Dressed in a black suit, Kim stepped off his train at Khasan station along the border of the two countries at 6 a.m. Tuesday, state media said.
Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Russia’s far eastern Primorsky region, received Kim at the train station upon his arrival Tuesday, photos show. Among the Russian officials at the welcome ceremony was Alexander Kozlov, the minister of natural resources and ecology, state media said.
The expected meeting with Putin will be the two isolated leaders’ first since 2019, when Kim traveled to Vladivostok. That summit took place two months after the collapse of U.S.-North Korea denuclearization negotiations in Hanoi, and as Kim sought to hedge his bets in his negotiations of his nuclear program.
Kim has been expanding his nuclear-capable weapons arsenal at a rapid clip since his failed summit with then-U. S. President Donald Trump, even as his pandemic measures constricted his economy.
Now, Kim and Putin are looking to signal that they are banding together around shared interests in their respective standoffs with Washington.
Washington has accused Moscow of seeking North Korean weapons to provide for its war in Ukraine.
“We remain concerned that North Korea is contemplating providing any type of ammunition or materiel support to Russia, in support of their war against Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder told reporters on Monday.
In an interview on CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Vice President Harris said “it would be a huge mistake” for the two leaders to iron out an arms deal.
“I also believe very strongly that for both Russia and North Korea, this will further isolate them,” Harris said.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed reporting.