Russia gives Kim Jong Un an inside look at its warplanes and frigates

By Yoonjung Seo, CNN

Seoul, South Korea CNN  —  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected warplanes, toured an airfield and visited a Pacific Fleet frigate on Saturday as the latest stop on his tour of Russia took him to Vladivostok.

Russian state media reported that Kim had met the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Knevichi airfield in Vladivostok before both men were accompanied by the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, on a visit to the Pacific Fleet frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov.

The North Korean leader was shown the ship’s central command center and its modern missile weapon control systems, the Russian Ministry of Defence said via Telegram.

It added that Admiral Evmenov had talked to Kim about the “expanded capabilities of the new control systems, which allow Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles to be effectively used against sea and coastal targets at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers from the ship.”

The stop in Vladivostok is Kim’s latest in a tour of Russia that follows his meeting with President Vladimir Putin earlier this week, at which the North Korean leader appeared to endorse Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

The meeting has led to speculation around the potential for some kind of military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang.

Earlier in the morning, Kim and Shoigu had toured the Knevichi airfield in Vladivostok, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, where Kim was shown Russian aircraft including the Tu-160, Tu-95MS and Tu-22M3.

Kim also saw the Su-34, Su-30SM, Su-35S fighter jets along with the Su-25SM3 attack aircraft, RIA added.

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile system and Russia’s Tu-214 long-haul passenger airplane were also on display, it said.

Kim ‘deeply impressed’

On Friday, North Korean state media reported Kim had been “deeply impressed” by a visit to a Russian aircraft manufacturing plant.

Kim toured facilities for aircraft design and assembly at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant, where he was struck by “the rich independent potential and modernity of the Russian aircraft manufacturing industry,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

He met test pilots, climbed aboard a Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jet, and watched a test flight of the airplane, KCNA said.

The facility Kim toured on Friday is Russia’s largest aviation manufacturing plant and builds and develops warplanes for the ministry of defense, including Su-35S and Su-57 fighter jets, according to the Russian state media agency TASS. Kim’s late father, Kim Jong Il, visited it in 2002.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits an aircraft manufacturing plant in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia on September 15, 2023.

On Friday’s visit Kim “expressed sincere regard for Russia’s aviation technology” and how it had undergone “rapid development, outpacing the outside potential threats, and wished the plant success in its future development,” KCNA reported.

After the tour and a luncheon, Kim left a message in the visitor’s book saying, “Witnessing the rapid development of Russia’s aviation technology and its gigantic potential” before signing it with the date and his name.

According to a Russian government press release on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov said Moscow saw “the potential for cooperation both in aircraft manufacturing and in other industries” with North Korea.

“This is especially relevant for achieving the tasks our countries face to achieve technological sovereignty,” he said in a statement circulated on Telegram.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits an aircraft manufacturing plant in the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia on September 15, 2023.

Mutual benefits

While exact details remain scant on what sorts of talks have taken place behind closed doors, observers say it’s clear what each is looking for from the other.

Moscow is desperate for fresh supplies of ammunition and shells as its war with Ukraine drags on – and Pyongyang is believed to be sitting on a stockpile.

Meanwhile, after years of sanctions over its nuclear weapon and missiles program, North Korea is equally in need of everything from energy to food to military technology, all of which Russia has.

When the two leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur Region, a reporter asked Putin whether Russia would help North Korea “launch its own satellites and rockets” – to which Putin responded, “That’s exactly why we came here.”

The Russian president also said Kim “shows great interest in space, in rocketry, and they are trying to develop space.”

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