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Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks on September 13 with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who offered his country’s “full and unconditional support” to defend what he said was Russia’s security interests, in an apparent reference to Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Kim also called North Korea’s relations with Russia “the first priority,” after talks at a remote Siberian rocket-launch facility.

Washington has expressed concern that Putin would use the meeting to press Kim on weapons shipments to resupply dwindling Russian stockpiles. The two leaders are aligning in the face of their countries’ separate, intensifying confrontations with the West.

The meeting came hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles toward the sea, South Korean officials reported.

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The two men began their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome after a tour of the complex, including two launch pads, Russian state media reported. The talks lasted four to five hours, after which Kim left, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

North Korea may have tens of millions of aging artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could give a huge boost to the Russian Army in Ukraine, analysts say.

Asked whether Russia will help North Korea build satellites, Putin was quoted by Russian state media as saying, “that’s why we have come here.” Asked about military cooperation, Putin said: “we will talk about all issues without a rush. There is time.”

Official photos showed that Kim was accompanied by Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and navy Admiral Kim Myong Sik. Both are reported to be linked to North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic-missile submarines, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Also part of the North Korean delegation appears to be Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official in charge of munitions policies who joined him on recent tours of factories producing artillery shells and missiles, according to South Korea.

Kim had been expected to seek economic aid as well as military technology. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said Russia may discuss humanitarian aid with the North Korean delegation, according to Russian news agencies.

An arms deal would violate international sanctions that Russia supported in the past.

“No UN member state should violate Security Council sanctions against North Korea by engaging in an illegal trade of arms, and must certainly not engage in military cooperation with North Korea that undermines the peace and stability of the international community,” South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Lim Soo-suk said.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on September 13 that Moscow and Beijing will cancel sanctions against North Korea imposed on it to curb its nuclear program.

Lavrov said that the sanctions against Pyongyang had been approved by Russia and China in “an absolutely different geopolitical situation.” International sanctions against North Korea over Pyongyang’s nuclear program were imposed after its first nuclear test in 2006.

Beijing has yet to comment on Lavrov’s statement.

The United States earlier accused North Korea of providing Russia with arms, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials denied such claims.

“We urge the [North Korea] to abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia,” White House National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson said in a statement earlier.

Kim was making his first foreign trip since the pandemic, during which North Korea imposed tight border controls for more than three years. After decades of hot-and-cold relations, Russia and North Korea have drawn closer since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and dpa

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