North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, left, shakes hands with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, on Sep. 17 (local). [Photo by Yonhap]
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un toured some of Moscow’s strategic weapons, such as strategic bombers and hypersonic missiles during his trip to Russia to highlight North Korea-Russia military cooperation. The move is also a reaction to the trilateral military drills between South Korea, the United States, and Japan as well as the growing influence of U.S. strategic assets over South Korea.
North Korean state media reported on Sunday that Kim’s train arrived in Russia’s Far East, where Moscow’s military airfields and Pacific fleets are located. In a related report, the North Korean authorities underscored that the North Korea-Russia summit helped improve the relations between the two countries to a new peak. According to both North Korean and Russian media reports, Kim and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited the Knevichi airfield in Vladivostok on Saturday to inspect key military equipment for Russia’s air force.
Russian media also said that Kim inspected strategic bombers that can transport nuclear weapons. The aircraft, which include the Tupolev Tu-160, Tu-95MS, and Tu-22M3, along with intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and strategic nuclear-powered submarines, are part of Russia’s critical assets for delivering nuclear weaponry.
Shoigu told Kim one aircraft could “fly from Moscow to Japan and then back again.” With this statement, the Russian defense chief highlighted Japan, a U.S. military base supporting the United Nations Command, as a potential nuclear target. It can also be perceived as a warning from North Korea and Russia to the trilateral military cooperation between South Korea, the United States, and Japan.
Shoigu also introduced Kim to the Kinzhal (Kh-47M2), an air-to-ground hypersonic missile that is affixed to a MiG-31 fighter jet. Photos released by the Russian Defense Ministry depicted Kim physically touching the Kinzhal missile and displaying a deep interest in the technology.
North Korea said that on the same day, Kim and Shoigu shared their opinions about global political dynamics as well as future strategic cooperation and interaction between Pyongyang and Moscow.
However, analysts and governmental officials in Seoul expressed different responses to the summit and Kim’s military tour in Moscow. “After the summit, Russia is expected to work more closely with North Korea, which seeks the development of surveillance satellites and nuclear submarines as part of its military fortification,” according to Cheong Seong-chang, director of Department of Unification Strategy Studies at Sejong Institute.
On the other hand, a high-ranking South Korean government official was said to have informed reporters the day after the summit that Russia’s supply of advanced military technology to North Korea is likely to be highly limited, adding that Moscow could not expect more than artillery shells from Pyeongyang.
By Kim Sung-hoon and Han Yubin
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