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North Korea’s Kim shows off banned missiles to Russian minister

russia's defense minister sergei shoigu presents flower baskets to the statues of late north korean leaders kim il sung and kim jong il
Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu salutes as he presents flower baskets to the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il

Russia’s defence minister accompanied North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to a defence exhibition that featured the North’s banned ballistic missiles as the neighbours pledged to boost ties, North Korean state media reported on Thursday.

The Russian minister, Sergei Shoigu, and a Chinese delegation led by a Communist Party Politburo member arrived in North Korea this week for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, celebrated in North Korea as “Victory Day”.

The nuclear-capable missiles are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted with Russian and Chinese support. But this week they provided a striking backdrop for a show of solidarity by countries united by their rivalry with the U.S. and a revival of what some analysts see as their Cold War-era coalition.

Shoigu’s visit was the first by a Russian defence minister to North Korea since the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.

For North Korea, the arrival of the delegations marks its first major openingup to the world since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“(Kim) expressed his views on the issues of mutual concern in the struggle to safeguard the sovereignty, development and interests of the two countries from the high-handed and arbitrary practices of the imperialists and to realisinternational justice and peace,” North Korean media said.

The state news agency KCNA did not refer to the war in Ukraine but North Korea’s defence minister, Kang Sun Nam, was reported as saying Pyongyang fully supported Russia’s “battle for justice” and protection of its sovereignty.

‘COMMON DETERMINATION TO OPPOSE WEST’

Shoigu gave Kim a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledging that backing.

“Strong support from the DPRK for the special military operation in Ukraine, (and) solidarity with Russia on key international issues further emphasise our common interest and determination to oppose the policy of the collective West, which prevents the establishment of a truly multipolar, just world order,” it read, according to the Russian state news agency RIA.

State media photographs showed Kim and his guests at a display of some of the North’s ballistic missiles in multi-axle transporter launchers. Another image showed what analysts said appeared to be a new drone.

“We’ve come a long way from when North Korea would avoid showing off its nuclear capabilities when senior foreign dignitaries from Russia and China were in town,” said Ankit Panda of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

“The personal tour for Shoigu – and Shoigu’s willingness to be photographed with Kim in the course of this tour – is evidence that Moscow is complacent with North Korea’s ongoing nuclear modernization,” he said.

Kim also met Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong for talks and was handed a letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping, North Korean media reported.

Li’s visit showed Xi’s commitment to the North Korea-China friendship, Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

State media photographs showed Kim at a large flashy performance flanked by Shoigu and Li, with a backdrop that included a slogan used by the Chinese army during the Korean War vowing to “resist U.S. aggressors”.

Later North Korea held a widely-anticipated nighttime military parade, an event expected to showcase its latest weapons, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

Pyongyang’s state media had not reported on the parade as of Thursday night.

PUTIN REACHING OUT TO OTHERS FOR WAR SUPPORT

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Russia’s overtures to North Korea reflected its difficulties procuring arms.

“It’s been no secret … Mr Putin is reaching out to other countries for help and support in fighting his war in Ukraine. And that includes, we know, some outreach to (North Korea),” he said.

The White House has said North Korea has shipped weapons including infantry rockets and missiles to Russia.

North Korea and Russia deny conducting arms transactions.

The Russian visit raises the prospect of more open support for North Korea, especially with Russia isolated by the West over its invasion of Ukraine, analysts said.

One said Shoigu’s inspection of the North Korean missiles suggested Russian acceptance of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

“It may signify that the current geopolitical circumstances are starting to erode Russia’s long-standing interest in preserving the global non-proliferation regime,” said Artyom Lukin, a professor at Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok.

The simultaneous visits by high-ranking officials were a sign of a revival of the Russian-Chinese-North Korean coalition that originally existed in the late 1940s and 1950s, though now likely to be led from Beijing rather than Moscow, he added.

South Korea noted it had been Russia’s official position to oppose North Korea’s nuclear programme and said it hoped Shoigu’s visit would help the North return to dialogue.

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