Kim Jong-un Enters Russian Territory, Set to Meet with Putin
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has embarked on a journey to Russia, having crossed the border and is scheduled to hold a summit with President Vladimir Putin at a later time.
According to a US official, with Russia facing a counter-attack from Ukraine, it is likely that the two countries will discuss arms trade.
The South Korean Ministry of Defense has confirmed that Kim's train entered Russian territory on Tuesday morning.
The train will head to Vladivostok, formerly known as "Haishenwai" in China, where Russia is hosting the Eastern Economic Forum.
The travel itinerary is expected to take five to six hours.
The summit between the leaders of the two countries is expected to take place as early as Tuesday local time, but a statement from the Kremlin suggests that the meeting could also happen "in the next few days".
According to the Korean Central News Agency, Kim will be accompanied by senior government officials, including military personnel.
The Kremlin has also confirmed Kim's visit to Russia.
Photos released by North Korean official media show Kim waving from his armored train before departing Pyongyang. According to CBS News, a US partner media outlet of BBC, the Pentagon expects a "type of meeting" between the North Korean and Russian leaders. If the summit between Kim Jong-un and President Putin takes place as planned, it will be the first international visit by a North Korean leader in over four years and the first since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
US officials previously informed CBS that a key agenda of the meeting would be to discuss whether North Korea could potentially provide weapons to Russia in support of its conflict in Ukraine.
Kim's last trip abroad was in 2019 when he met with President Putin in Vladivostok following the breakdown of nuclear disarmament talks with then-US President Donald Trump.
There have been rumors that Kim's train includes at least 20 bulletproof carriages, making it heavier than a regular train and with a maximum speed of 59 km/h (37 mph). His journey to Vladivostok is expected to take a full day.
The White House has stated that they have received the latest information and that military talks between Russia and North Korea are progressing "actively".
John Kirby, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, previously stated that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attempted to "persuade Pyongyang to sell artillery ammunition to Russia" during his recent visit to North Korea. Ankit Panda from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington highlighted that Russia and North Korea each have something the other wants.
"Now it's important for both sides to find a price that each is willing to pay in exchange for assistance," he told the BBC.
Russia may seek conventional weapons from North Korea, including artillery shells and rocket ammunition, possibly offering food and raw materials in return and continuing to support North Korea at international forums such as the United Nations.
"This could possibly open up the opportunity for North Korea to provide more sophisticated weapons to Russia, allowing Moscow to maintain and replenish its conventional weapons stockpile."
Russia is believed to be in need of 122mm and 152mm artillery shells as its supply has become precarious, though determining North Korea's complete artillery stockpile is difficult due to its secrecy.
During their meeting in July, Kim and Shoigu showcased weapons, including what is believed to be North Korea's first solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile in the Hwasong series.