Updated Sep 13, 2023 - World

Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin meet in Russia amid arms deal concerns

 In this pool photo distributed by Sputnik agency, Russia's President Vladimir Putin (Centre L) shakes hands with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (2nd R) during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Amur region on September 13, 2023.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin (left) shakes hands with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un during their meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region on Wednesday. Photo: Vladimir Smirnov/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un met with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Wednesday amid rising concerns about military cooperation between the two U.S. adversaries.

Why it matters: U.S. officials are worried that Pyongyang could supply weapons to the Kremlin for Putin's war in Ukraine. Asked whether the leaders would discuss arms supplies or "military-technical co-operation," Putin said "we will discuss all issues," per a BBC translation.

Driving the news: Speaking ahead of the pair's one-on-one meeting, Putin welcomed Kim and said the two would discuss "economic cooperation, humanitarian issues and the situation in the region," according to a Kremlin readout.

  • "Russia is currently engaged in a sacred battle to defend its state sovereignty and security," Kim said, per the readout.
  • Asked whether he'd discussed military-technical cooperation with Kim, Putin suggested that there might be areas the two countries could cooperate on, CNN reported.
  • "There are certain restrictions, and Russia complies with all these restrictions," Putin told state-owned Russia 1, per CNN. "But there are things that we can of course talk about, discuss, think about it. And here too there are prospects."
  • Kim said that during the talks — which lasted over four hours — he and Putin had agreed to bolster their "strategic and tactical cooperation," AP reported.

Between the lines: The U.S. warned Wednesday of potential consequences if the meeting between Kim and Putin leads to weapons transfers between the two countries.

  • "We have taken a number of actions already to sanction entities that have brokered arms sales between North Korea and Russia, and we won't hesitate to impose additional actions if appropriate," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing Wednesday.

Zoom out: Ahead of Wednesday's meeting at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Kim said that his first visit to Russia in four years underscored the "strategic importance" of relations between Pyongyang and Moscow, according to North Korean state media.

  • Russian state media reported that when Putin was asked during the tour whether Moscow officials would help their Pyongyang counterparts build satellites, he replied: "This is why we've come to Vostochny Cosmodrome."

Of note: Hours before the meeting, officials in South Korea and Japan reported that Pyongyang had fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with additional details.

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