North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday inspected Russian nuclear-capable strategic bombers, hypersonic missiles and warships, accompanied by Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu.
A smiling Kim was greeted at Russia’s Knevichi airfield, about 50km from the Pacific city of Vladivostok, by Shoigu, who saluted Kim. The North Korean leader then inspected a guard of honor.
The US and South Korea fear that the revival of Moscow’s friendship with Pyongyang could give Kim access to some of Russia’s sensitive missile and other technology in exchange for helping arm Russia for its war in Ukraine.
Photo: AFP / Russian Defence Ministry
Shoigu showed Kim Russia’s strategic bombers — the Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 — which are capable of carrying nuclear weapons and form the backbone of Russia’s nuclear air attack force, the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
“It can fly from Moscow to Japan and then back again,” Shoigu told Kim of one aircraft.
Kim was shown asking about how the missiles were fired from the aircraft, at times nodding and smiling.
Shoigu showed him the MiG-31I supersonic interceptor aircraft equipped with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. The Kinzhal, or dagger, is an air-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads. It has a reported range of 1,500km to 2,000km while carrying a payload of 480kg and can travel at up to 10 times the speed of sound, or 12,000kph.
After the aircraft and missiles, Kim inspected a warship from Russia’s Pacific fleet in Vladivostok, where he was due to watch a demonstration by the Russian navy.
South Korea and the US on Friday said military cooperation between North Korea and Russia would contravene UN sanctions against Pyongyang, and that they would ensure a price was paid.
Russia has gone out of its way to publicize Kim’s visit and drop repeated hints about the prospect of military cooperation with North Korea, which was formed in 1948 with the backing of the Soviet Union.
For Russian President Vladimir Putin, who says Moscow is locked in an existential battle with the West over Ukraine, courting Kim enables him to needle Washington and its Asian allies while potentially securing a deep supply of artillery for the war in Ukraine.
Washington has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, which has the world’s biggest store of nuclear warheads, but it is unclear whether any deliveries have been made.
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