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Russian President Vladimir Putin praises Pyongyang as he goes on rare North Korea visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin goes down the stairs upon his arrival at the airport of Yakutsk, republic of Sakha also known as Yakutia, 18 June 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin goes down the stairs upon his arrival at the airport of Yakutsk, republic of Sakha also known as Yakutia, 18 June 2024 Copyright Sergei Karpukhin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Copyright Sergei Karpukhin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
By Euronews with AP
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The West is concerned that Moscow and Pyongyang are strengthening their alliance just as Russia tries to regain the edge in Ukraine.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked autocrat Kim Jong Un for his support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine ahead of a rare trip to North Korea on Tuesday.

The two-day visit — the first for a Russian leader in a quarter century — comes as the two nations strengthen their alliance against increasing pressures from Washington.

Putin is expected to arrive later on Tuesday after making a stopover in the Russian diamond-making region of Sakha, in the country's far east.

In Pyongyang, streets have been already 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 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 jointly counter what he termed "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.

Close friendships becoming even closer

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.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, September 2023 visit.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, September 2023 visit. Mikhail Metzel/Sputnik

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 the Kremlin 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.

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