SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has set off for Russia aboard a special train, a South Korean source said, as Pyongyang and Moscow on Monday confirmed a summit with President Vladimir Putin.
Kim would visit Russia in the coming days at the invitation of Putin, the Kremlin said, while North Korean state news agency KCNA said the two would “meet and have a talk”, without elaborating.
US officials have said the pair would discuss possible arms deals to aid Russia’s war in Ukraine and provide North Korea with a much-needed economic and political lifeline.
Washington and its allies have been voicing concern at recent signs of closer military cooperation between Russia and the nuclear-armed North. It will be Kim’s second summit with Putin, after the pair met in 2019.
Despite denials by both Pyongyang and Moscow, the United States has said talks are advancing actively for North Korea to supply arms to Russia, which has expended vast stocks of weapons in more than 18 months of war.
The North Korean leader left aboard his train late on Sunday.
The special train would take Kim to North Korea’s northeastern border with Russia and the summit could take place as early as Tuesday, said the official and added that details could change depending on the situation there.
Neither Moscow nor Pyongyang immediately confirmed an exact schedule for the visit.
North Korea is one of the few countries to have openly supported Russia since the invasion of Ukraine last year, and Putin pledged last week to “expand bilateral ties in all respects in a planned way by pooling efforts”.
Japanese media reported security was being stepped up and refurbishment was taking place at the main train station in the Russian border city of Khasan, where Kim is expected to enter Russia.
Kim does not travel abroad often and, when he does, it is often shrouded in secrecy and security. He travels by a special train with its signature olive green carriages that are said to be armoured and equipped with communications systems and a personal suite for Kim to work and confer with aides. — Reuters