Putin meets Kim Jong-un in search of more weaponry

It is the first time the Russian leader has travelled to North Korea in 24 years
<p>El presidente de Rusia, Vladimir Putin, y el líder de Corea del Norte, Kim Jong Un, se reúnen en Pyongyang, Corea del Norte, el 19 de junio de 2024 - <strong>SPUTNIK/ GAVRIIL GRIGOROV via REUTERS</strong></p>
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meet in Pyongyang, North Korea June 19, 2024 - SPUTNIK/ GAVRIIL GRIGOROV via REUTERS
  1. Russia moves closer to North Korea with an eye on Ukraine
  2. Laying the foundations for "long-term" bilateral relations
  3. US watches Putin's moves with concern

Vladimir Putin has landed on North Korean soil for the first time in more than two decades at the helm of Russia. He had not done so since 2000, when Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un's father, was still in power. And the reasons, far from being limited to a mere diplomatic rapprochement with the hermetic Asian country, lie more in Ukrainian territory. Moscow needs armaments and has seen Pyongyang as one of its best options for reinforcing its arsenal in view of the third year of war that the conflict with Kiev has already entered.

Russia moves closer to North Korea with an eye on Ukraine

Without being polar opposites by any means, Putin has never shown excessive closeness to Kim Jong-un's dictatorial regime, at least in terms of direct meetings with its leader. But circumstances force the Russian president to win as many partners as he can, especially when, after the invasion of Ukraine, his traditional allies - China among them - have shied away from showing their unreserved support for what the Kremlin calls a "special military operation".

El líder norcoreano Kim Jong Un (d) y el presidente ruso Vladimir Putin asisten a una ceremonia de bienvenida en la plaza Kim Il Sung de Pyongyang el 19 de junio de 2024  - AFP/GAVRIIL GRIGOROV
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (r) and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend a welcoming ceremony at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on June 19, 2024 - AFP/GAVRIIL GRIGOROV

This is not the case with North Korea. Kim Jong-un has conveyed to Vladimir Putin his "unwavering support for Russia's policies, including on Ukraine". The North Korean leader also expressed his "solidarity" with Moscow, which, he says, must "protect its sovereignty, security interests and territorial integrity". The visit began with a welcoming ceremony in Kim Il-Sung Square, where the North Korean regime's most important celebrations are usually held.

Laying the foundations for "long-term" bilateral relations

While it is true that Putin has travelled to Pyongyang with an eye on what is happening in Ukraine, he also wants to take advantage of his historic visit to bring closer the positions with which his country has experienced "significant progress" in cooperation between the two countries. The Russian leader also referred to the latest summit held in Russia between the two leaders who, according to Putin, are seeking to fight "against decades of imperialist policies imposed by the United States".

<p>Pie de foto: El líder de Corea del Norte, Kim Jong Un, le da la mano al presidente ruso Vladimir Putin durante una ceremonia de bienvenida en la plaza Kim Il Sung en Pyongyang el 19 de junio de 2024 - AFP/VLADIMIR SMIRNOV</p>
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a welcoming ceremony at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on June 19, 2024 - AFP/VLADIMIR SMIRNOV

They want to improve their relations, and they want to do so by increasing the number of agreements between the two countries. A path they already started down last year with an agreement on military matters at a summit last year in Amur. Now Putin announces that they want to discuss "a new document" that will serve as a basis for improving bilateral relations "in the long term". A move that worries his rivals for control of the World Order.

US watches Putin's moves with concern

Washington is keeping an eye on Moscow. The country presided over by Joe Biden is watching this rapprochement between Russia and North Korea with concern, especially given the importance of Putin's first trip to Korea in 24 years. The White House is expressing some concern about the "deepening" of relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, especially in the defence sector.

<p>El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin aterrizó en Corea del Norte a principios del 19 de junio, dando inicio a una visita destinada a impulsar los lazos de defensa entre los dos países con armas nucleares mientras Moscú prosigue su guerra en Ucrania - <strong>AFP/GAVRIIL GRIGORO </strong></p>
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in North Korea early on 19 June, kicking off a visit aimed at boosting defence ties between the two nuclear-armed countries as Moscow pursues its war in Ukraine - AFP/GAVRIIL GRIGORO 

This is not surprising, though it does not come as a surprise. The US was "fairly certain", Washington insiders say, that the Russian leader was seeking to acquire weapons to bolster his position in the Ukrainian war. Indeed, Pentagon Major General Patrick Ryder believes that "the deepening cooperation between Russia and North Korea is something that should be of concern, especially to anyone interested in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula".

<p>En esta foto de archivo tomada el 30 de junio de 2019, el líder de Corea del Norte, Kim Jong Un, y el presidente estadounidense, Donald Trump, cruzan al sur de la Línea de Demarcación Militar que divide Corea del Norte y Corea del Sur - <strong>AFP/BREDAN SMIALOWSKI </strong></p>
In this file photo taken on June 30, 2019, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump cross south of the Military Demarcation Line dividing North and South Korea - AFP/BREDAN SMIALOWSKI 

This is one of the most sensitive issues for US foreign policy, which is not exactly at its best when it comes to ties with the North Korean regime. The historic visit to North Korea by then - and probably again from November onwards - President Donald Trump was a long time ago. Biden's unsuccessful efforts to meet with Kim Jong-un have failed to convince a regime that is now taking another step towards strengthening its alliance with Russia.