Before Summit With North Korea’s Kim, Putin Vows They’ll Beat Sanctions Together

SEOUL (AP) —
Russian President Vladimir Putin (center L) and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (center R) examine a launchpad during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, in 2023. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

Russian President Vladimir Putin thanked North Korea for supporting his actions in Ukraine and said their countries will cooperate closely to overcome U.S.-led sanctions as he headed to Pyongyang on Tuesday for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Putin’s comments appeared in an op-ed piece in North Korean state media hours before he was expected to arrive for a two-day visit as the countries deepen their alignment in the face of separate, intensifying confrontations with Washington.

Putin, who will be making his first trip to North Korea in 24 years, said he highly appreciates its firm support of his invasion of Ukraine. He said the countries would continue to “resolutely oppose” what he described as Western ambitions “to hinder the establishment of a multipolarized world order based on mutual respect for justice.”

Putin also said Russia and North Korea will develop trade and payment systems “that are not controlled by the West” and jointly oppose sanctions against the countries, which he described as “unilateral and illegal restrictive measures.”

North Korea is under heavy U.N. Security Council economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons and missile programs, while Russia is also grappling with sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.

Putin said the countries will also expand cooperation in tourism, culture, and education.

Before heading to North Korea, Putin earlier on Tuesday traveled to Yakutsk, a city in eastern Russia, where he was reportedly planning to meet the local governor, Aisen Nikolayev, and receive briefings on the region’s technology and defense-related projects.

Putin’s visit comes amid growing concerns about an arms arrangement in which Pyongyang provides Moscow with badly needed munitions to fuel Russia’s war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that would enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

Military, economic, and other exchanges between North Korea and Russia have sharply increased since Kim visited the Russian Far East in September for a meeting with Putin, their first since 2019.

U.S. and South Korean officials have accused the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles, and other military equipment to help prolong the war in Ukraine, possibly in return for key military technologies and aid. Both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied accusations about North Korean weapons transfers, which would violate multiple U.N. Security Council sanctions Russia previously endorsed.

Along with China, Russia has provided political cover for Kim’s continuing efforts to advance his nuclear arsenal, repeatedly blocking U.S.-led efforts to impose fresh U.N. sanctions on the North over its weapons tests.

In March, a Russian veto at the United Nations ended monitoring of U.N. sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program, prompting Western accusations that Moscow is seeking to avoid scrutiny as it buys weapons from Pyongyang for use in Ukraine. U.S. and South Korean officials have said they are discussing options for a new mechanism for monitoring the North.

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