Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin Strengthen Military Ties

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un emphasized the importance of his country’s relationship with Russia during his meeting with President Vladimir Putin at a Russian space facility in the far east on Wednesday, marking their first encounter in four years. This meeting signaled a resolute commitment by the two leaders, both considered outcasts by the West, to support each other unequivocally, countering U.S.-led efforts to isolate Putin for the Ukraine conflict and Kim for his nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

The meeting comes on the heels of months of U.S. intelligence assessments suggesting that Russia is seeking access to North Korea’s weaponry to replenish its diminishing supplies for the war in Ukraine, while Pyongyang aims to revive its struggling economy and obtain advanced technology for its satellite and nuclear programs from Moscow.

North Korea possesses a substantial inventory of outdated artillery shells and rockets compatible with Soviet and Russian weapon systems employed in Ukraine. Its production capacity can assist Russia in sustaining its high ammunition consumption as it seeks to bolster domestic production. Recent Western estimates suggest Russia utilized up to 11 million shells in Ukraine last year and plans to fire an additional 7 million rounds this year.

However, engaging in a potential arms deal would breach United Nations sanctions, a stance that Russia had previously supported as a U.N. member state and permanent Security Council member. Putin acknowledged these restrictions but hinted at possibilities for discussions within the existing framework. He stated, “Russia is a self-sufficient country, but within the framework of the current rules, we have some opportunities, which we pay attention to and discuss.”

Russia’s need for assistance from North Korea, often viewed as a global pariah, underscores the unanticipated difficulty and duration of the Ukraine conflict. While Putin believes the West will eventually tire and withdraw support for Ukraine, Russia faces challenges in maintaining its troops and the ongoing invasion.