North Korean state media announced on Thursday, July, 27, 2023 that the Supreme ruler of the country, Kim Jong Un met with Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu to discuss military issues and the regional security environment.
This is the North Korean leader’s first known meeting with a foreign dignitary since the COVID-19 pandemic and it came as the country celebrated the 70th anniversary of an armistice that halted fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea invited delegations from Russia and China to attend the events marking the armistice of July 27, 1953. Shoigu led the Russian delegation and the Chinese delegation was headed by Chinese Communist Party Politburo member, Li Hongzhong.
According to the state news agency, Kim and Shoigu had a discussion in the capital, Pyongyang, and reached a consensus on unspecified “matters of mutual concern in the field of national defense and security and on the regional and international security environment.”
The meeting between the two men was an “important occasion in further developing the strategic and traditional DPRK-Russia relations as required by the new century”, the news agency disclosed. DPRK stands for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; North Korea’s official name.
The news report revealed that Shoigu gave Kim a letter from Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Kim thanked Putin for sending a delegation led by Shoigu, who also held talks with North Korean Defense Minister, Kang Sun Nam.
Also, Kim took Shoigu to an arms exhibition that showcased some of North Korea’s newest weapons and briefed him on national plans to expand the country’s military capabilities, the state news media said. Photos from the exhibition showed Kim and Shoigu walking near a row of large missiles mounted on launcher trucks.
North Korean authorities are expected to hold a large military parade in the capital on Thursday to mark the date of the end of the conflict, which saw China and the Soviet Union support the North against the United States-backed South. State media, however, had not confirmed plans for a military parade.
The last time North Korea invited foreign government delegates for a military parade was in February 2018.
Though the July 27, 1953 truce left the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war, the North still sees it as a victory in the “Grand Fatherland Liberation War.”
U.S Says Putin Is Reaching Out For Support
When asked about the possibility that Shoigu’s visit was to discuss importing weapons from North Korea, John Kirby, the White House’s National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, did not provide a direct answer.
However, he stated that it was clear that Putin is reaching out to other countries for support in fighting his war in Ukraine.
“Mr. Putin knows he’s having his own defense procurement problems, his own inventory problems, that his military remains on the back foot, and he’s trying to shore that up.”John Kirby
Meanwhile, Lee Sung Joon, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, disclosed at a briefing that the South Korean military was analyzing the military assets shown in the North Korean photos but did not share specific assessments.
Russia and China are among a handful of countries that maintain friendly relations with North Korea.
The Biden administration has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia to aid its fighting in Ukraine, but North Korea has denied the claim.
North Korea has supported Russia over the war in Ukraine, blaming U.S hegemony for pushing Moscow to invade its neighbour to protect its security interests.
Moscow and Beijing have repeatedly blocked Western efforts to tighten sanctions against Pyongyang over its weapons programmes at the United Nations Security Council.