Kim Jong-un on Friday toured Russian military-related facilities producing the off-limits technology he would like to obtain for his isolated nation, as Moscow tempts the North Korean leader whose ammunition stocks the United States says Russia covets for the war in Ukraine.
Mr. Kim’s visit to a plant that makes fighter jets in the eastern Russian city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur came two days after he met President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, where the North Korean leader viewed powerful rockets similar to the ones he hopes to build to launch military satellites.
In the coming days, Mr. Kim also is expected to visit Russia’s Pacific Fleet, according to Mr. Putin. Though it is unclear which facilities he will visit, the fleet includes a large number of modernized submarines — the likes of which North Korea would like to develop.
Mr. Kim’s tour schedule seemed designed not only to impress the North Korean leader with Russia’s scientific abilities in the military sphere but also to underscore how Moscow could exacerbate the North Korean threat in response to Western support for Ukraine.
United Nations sanctions ban financial, technological or other aid for North Korean weapons programs, including its space program, which is seen as being tied to ballistic missile development. But Mr. Putin said after meeting Mr. Kim that there were still “some prospects” for military cooperation. He didn’t say what those were. The Russian state news agency Tass reported that the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said no agreements were signed by the two men.
As Mr. Kim carried on with his trip in the Far East, Mr. Putin welcomed another authoritarian leader, Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus, to Russia for talks in Sochi.
Mr. Putin announced that as of Friday morning, about 300,000 Russians had signed voluntary contracts to serve with the Russian Ministry of Defense so far in 2023. He also denied Russia was threatening anyone by deepening relations with North Korea and hit out at the United States, saying the “overwhelming majority” of nations were fighting with Russia against a unipolar world led by Washington.
On Friday morning, Mr. Kim arrived in Komsomolsk-on-Amur and visited the Yuri Gagarin aircraft plant, where Russian civilian and military planes are made, including Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jets, according to Tass, the Russian state news agency. The plant is named after the Soviet cosmonaut who was the first person in space.
Mr. Kim’s tour of the Russian aviation factory highlighted his ambitions to modernize his country’s aging air force. Many of its war planes are museum pieces — old Soviet models provided by Moscow during the 1950-53 Korean War. North Korea, hamstrung by international sanctions, has also struggled to secure fuel and parts for its planes.
Still, the nation has found ways around U.N. restrictions. In 2013, when the Panamanian authorities stopped the North Korean cargo ship Chong Chon Gang, they found 25 shipping containers loaded with two disassembled MIG-21 jet fighters, 15 MIG-21 engines, and missile and other arms components from Cuba. They were hidden under 10,000 tons of sugar.
During the Kim-Putin meeting earlier this week, Russia and North Korea agreed to broad cooperation in the face of their common foe, the United States, as the war in Ukraine grinds on.
Neither government has released details of that cooperation. But Moscow sought to “bring North Korea into its supply chain of artillery shells and missiles” to help aid its war in Ukraine in return for providing Pyongyang with military and satellite technology, said Kim Jong-dae, a military expert in South Korea. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that North Korea is already providing shells and army rockets to Russia.
On his trip, Mr. Kim has been accompanied by senior officials in charge of his country’s military and defense industry.
Mr. Putin has accepted Mr. Kim’s invitation to visit North Korea again “at a convenient time,” Pyongyang and Moscow said on Thursday. Mr. Putin also visited Pyongyang in 2000.
— Paul Sonne and Choe Sang-Hun