North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui is in Russia this week for talks with her counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, as the two countries deepen economic, political, and military ties.

Choe arrived in Moscow on Sunday and was met by officials from the Russian foreign ministry and the North Korean embassy, state news agency KCNA reported on Monday.

As Russia’s international isolation has grown over its war in Ukraine, analysts say Moscow has seen increasing value in its ties with North Korea.

For North Korea’s part, relations with Russia have not always been as warm as they were at the height of the Soviet Union, but the country is reaping benefits from Moscow’s need for friends.

North Korea on Sunday tested a new solid-fuel hypersonic missile with intermediate range, KCNA reported, in a move that was condemned by the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Choe’s visit is scheduled to last through Wednesday, Russia’s foreign ministry said, and comes as the United States and its allies accused Moscow of firing North Korean-made ballistic missiles and other weapons against targets in Ukraine.

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied arms deals but have vowed to deepen cooperation across the board and have staged a series of high-level meetings since last year, including a summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Russia.

“Given that the Russia-North Korea relationship is shaping up to be quite multi-faceted, all kinds of issues can be discussed between Lavrov and Choe,” said Artyom Lukin, at Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University. “If she meets the Russian president, this may be another indication Putin will visit Pyongyang this year.”

Lukin said given the high number of North Korean missile launches, the latest test was likely unrelated to Choe’s trip.

A striking sign of deepening ties came in July, when Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang and toured a weapons exhibit that included the North’s banned ballistic missiles.

That was followed by Kim’s trip to Russia, his first foreign visit since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“In a nutshell, North Korea feels increasingly insecure and vulnerable vis-a-vis South Korea,” Lukin said. “Russia is currently the only power that can help enhance Pyongyang’s military-strategic security.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the visit would include negotiations, but did not elaborate.

She also predicted the trip would spark speculation by the West.

“Westerners are constantly throwing in the story that Russia is somehow behaving differently again, has no right to communicate with North Korea,” Zakharova said on state TV channel Rossiya-1 on Sunday. “We have the right to do whatever we consider necessary, taking into account the fact that we constantly declare respect for international law.”

Choe said in October that criticism by the United States and its allies of North Korea’s suspected arms deliveries to Russia was politicised and distorted, while vowing ties between Moscow and Pyongyang would reach a “new higher phase.”

Russia and North Korea have not commented specifically on the allegations of Moscow using North Korean missiles in Ukraine.

“Russia has been more openly willing to flaunt sanctions against Pyongyang, and appears increasingly less interested in multilateral efforts to curb North Korean provocations, especially since the Kremlin does not view North Korea as a direct threat to Russia,” said Anthony Rinna, a specialist in Korea-Russia relations at Sino-NK, a website that analyses the region.