Vladimir Putin visits North Korea for first time in two decades
Russian President Vladimir Putin is visiting North Korea for the first time in 24 years, thanking autocrat Kim ` Un for his support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The two-day visit comes as the two nations strengthen their alliance against increasing pressures from Washington. In Pyongyang, streets were decorated with Putin's portraits and Russian flags. A banner hung on a building said: “We warmly welcome the President of the Russian Federation.” In an op-ed published by North Korean state media just before his arrival, Putin praised Pyongyang's steadfast support for his invasion of Ukraine and stated that the two countries would firmly oppose what he described as Western ambitions “to hinder the establishment of a multipolar world order based on mutual respect for justice.” Putin also announced plans to develop new trade and payment systems independent of Western control and to jointly counter what he termed as "unilateral and illegal restrictive measures" imposed by the West. North Korea is under heavy UN Security Council economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, while Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the US and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine. Putin's visit comes amid growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Russia's war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Kim's nuclear weapons and missile program. Military, economic and other exchanges between North Korea and Russia have sharply increased since Kim visited the Russian Far East in September for a meeting with Putin, their first since 2019. US and South Korean officials have accused the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles and other military equipment to help prolong the war in Ukraine, possibly in return for key military technologies and aid. Both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied accusations about North Korean weapons transfers, which would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed. Additionally, Russia, alongside China, has provided political backing for Kim's ongoing efforts to advance his nuclear arsenal, repeatedly blocking US led initiatives to impose new UN sanctions on North Korea over its weapons tests.