North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss military issues and the regional security environment, state media said Thursday.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim and Shoigu talked Wednesday 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.”
During the meeting, Shoigu conveyed to Kim a “warm and good letter” signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, KCNA said. The report did not specify the military matters that were discussed.
North Korea has been aligning with Russia over the war in Ukraine, insisting that the “hegemonic policy” of the US-led West forced Moscow to take military action to protect its security interests.
The Biden administration has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia to aid its fighting in Ukraine, although the North has denied the claim. The Kim-Shoigu meeting will help to “further boost the strategic and tactical collaboration and cooperation between the two countries in the field of national defense and security,” KCNA said.
In a rare case of diplomatic opening since the start of the pandemic, North Korea invited delegations from Russia and China to attend the events marking the armistice of July 27, 1953. While the 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.”
KCNA said Kim also 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. Photos from the exhibition showed Kim and Shoigu walking near a row of large missiles mounted on launcher trucks.
Some of the weapons in the images appeared to be intercontinental ballistic missiles that the North has flight-tested in recent months as it pursues an arsenal that can pose a viable threat to the continental United States. Kim and Shoigu also walked past what were possibly new surveillance and attack drones that had not been publicly announced by the North.
Lee Sung Joon, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing that the South Korean military was analyzing the military assets shown in the North Korean photos but did not share specific assessments.