‘Fiery Friendship’: Putin, Kim Sign Mutual Defense Pact

Kim Jong Un rolled out the red carpet for Vladimir Putin, personally greeting the Russian President on the tarmac upon his arrival on Wednesday in Pyongyang for his first trip in 24 years to North Korea, a crucial arms supplier as the war in Ukraine rages on.

During the visit, Putin and Kim signed a defense pact that would provide “mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties [to the agreement],” Putin said, according to Russian state-owned news agency TASS. Kim said the meeting with his counterpart would strengthen the “fiery friendship” between their nations and called the new agreement “the most powerful treaty” in the history of Russia-North Korea relations. In an article for North Korean media ahead of his trip, Putin said that Russia and North Korea are “ready to confront the ambition of the collective West.”

Read More: Putin’s Trip to North Korea Reeks of Desperation, Not Strength

The leaders also pledged to deepen bilateral cooperation in fields like education, tourism, and agriculture.

An ICC arrest warrant for Putin in relation to the forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia has limited his travel. Because North Korea is not under the ICC’s jurisdiction, it is one of approximately 40 countries that Putin can visit without fear of arrest.

What did Putin get up to in North Korea?

Putin arrived in Pyongyang on Wednesday at 3 a.m. local time and was met with a handshake and a hug from Kim.

As their motorcade drove away from the airport and through the North Korean capital, which was decorated with Russian flags and portraits of the Russian leader, the two leaders discussed “deep sorrows that had accumulated over the years” and “shared their intention to use this reunion as a catalyst to further elevate the relationship” between their countries, North Korean state news agency KCNA reported.

Putin was then honored with a welcoming ceremony—featuring a cheering crowd, flag-waving young children, horse-mounted soldiers, and fireworks—before arriving at the Kumsusan Palace for official talks with Kim.

At the start of the summit, according to TASS, Putin reiterated his appreciation for North Korea’s “consistent and unwavering support for Russian policy, including in the Ukrainian direction,” while Kim similarly voiced “full support and solidarity” to Russia’s “special military operation in Ukraine.”

“I am very happy about our new meeting,” Putin was quoted as saying. “I hope that the next one will take place in Russia, in Moscow.”

Putin gifted Kim an Aurus sedan—the same kind used by the Russian President—a tea set, and a dagger, while Kim gave Putin artwork depicting the Russian President. Kim also awarded Putin the Kim Il Sung Order, one of the country’s highest honors, as a “token of boundless respect.”

Besides his talks with Kim and the signing of the agreement, Putin attended a gala concert alongside his host. Video of a highlight performance was shared via RIA Kremlin Pool's social media.

Where did Putin stay?

Putin was reportedly based at the Kumsusan guesthouse in Pyongyang, which also housed Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2019, although it’s unclear how much time the Russian President was able to spend there, given the short length of his trip.

Putin arrived in Vietnam on Thursday for more talks focused on economic and commercial matters.

What does Putin want from Kim?

The U.S. first accused North Korea of supplying weapons to Russia amid its war in Ukraine as early as September 2022, a charge Pyongyang has denied. Last week, South Korea’s defense chief Shin Wonsik said in an interview with Bloomberg that Seoul has detected 10,000 containers sent from Pyongyang to Russia. The containers could hold nearly 5 million artillery shells, he added.

North Korea may also have supplied anti-tank missiles, portable surface-to-air missiles, rifles, rocket launchers, mortars, and shells, South Korean officials said in November.

As Russia’s war with Ukraine has dragged on, the country’s supply of ammunition and other military hardware has dwindled. That has fueled growing concerns about an arms deal which sees Pyongyang supply weapons in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers.

North Korea remains under heavy U.S.-led sanctions for its nuclear weapons and missile programs. As he headed to Pyongyang, ahead of signing the agreement on Wednesday, Putin said both countries would cooperate to overcome sanctions.Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has increasingly found himself isolated from the West. In the last year, he has emphasized the importance of Russia’s ties to Iran and China.

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