Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong Un to visit North Korea after the two leaders held their first in-person summit in four years.

Kim is in Russia’s Far East as Putin seeks to strengthen his alliances amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and as the North Korean leader continues to push his country’s military modernization.

He extended the invitation to Putin at a “suitable time” at a reception at the end of a day in which the two held more than four hours of talks and toured the Vostochny space center.

“Putin accepted the invitation with joy and reaffirmed his will to always continue the history and tradition of friendship between Russia and the DPRK,” North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said on Thursday, using the acronym for the country’s official name.

The talks in Russia have raised fears in the United States and elsewhere that Kim could be willing to sell weapons to Moscow for his war in Ukraine, perhaps in exchange for technology that would further his military ambitions.

The North Korean leader is also expected to visit an aircraft factory and travel to Vladivostok, where he will tour the Russian Pacific Fleet. Kim’s delegation includes his defense minister, his top military commander and the director of the country’s munitions department.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, said the members of Kim’s delegation as well as the location of the summit were “quite revealing” even though no joint statement was issued.

“The composition of Kim’s delegation suggests that North Korea could send munitions to Russia in exchange for military technology. “The meeting at Russia’s Eastern Cosmodrome was like Putin mocking U.N. Security Council resolutions,” Easley said in his emailed comments. “This should be a wake-up call to all other UN member states that they must redouble their efforts to enforce sanctions against Pyongyang.”

In its report, KCNA said the two leaders agreed to further strengthen strategic and tactical cooperation in the face of the “military threats, provocations and tyranny of the imperialists.”

Putin, meanwhile, praised “strengthening cooperation and friendship between our countries” and told reporters he sees “opportunities” for military cooperation with North Korea. The talks also included Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who was guest of honor at events in Pyongyang in July to mark the 70th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.

Technology transfer

The Russian leader previously said Moscow could help Pyongyang build satellites – Kim argued that a spy satellite was crucial to North Korea’s weapons development, but his two attempts this year to put one into orbit both failed.

Some analysts suggested that North Korea may want to try using a Russian launch vehicle for the satellite and work with Russia to build a more powerful device.

“It is possible that North Korea is pushing to participate in the satellite’s production process rather than just acquiring a finished product to enable natural technology transfer,” said Yang Uk, a military expert at South Korea’s Asian Institute for Policy Studies. told the Associated Press.

Shortly before Putin and Kim met, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles, the latest in a series of launches in violation of United Nations sanctions that ban such activity.

Analysts said the delegation accompanying Kim was an indication of the visit’s likely agenda [Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik via AFP]

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said it was “troubling” that Russia was talking about cooperating with North Korea on programs that would potentially violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

South Korean Unification Minister Kim Young-ho, who is in charge of relations with Pyongyang, expressed “deep concern” about military cooperation and possible arms deals and said the two countries appeared to continue to pursue “some form” of a military deal.

“We once again call on Russia and North Korea to stop illegal actions that lead to their isolation and regression and to follow international rules, including Security Council resolutions,” the minister told reporters on Thursday.

Japan’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa also warned of “violations” of UN resolutions.

The resolutions, passed with Russian support, prohibit the development of technologies that could be used in North Korea’s ballistic missile programs.

They also prohibit any scientific and technical cooperation with North Korea in the fields of nuclear science and technology, aerospace engineering, and advanced production techniques and methods.

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