The announcement follows days of speculation regarding Kim’s unusual move to leave North Korea, with reports suggesting he is travelling by an armoured train to Vladivostok for discussions with Putin.
Kim’s trip comes at a time when there is significant interest in potential arms trade between the two nations, as experts believe North Korea may supply artillery shells and antitank missiles to Russia for its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
According to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, “The respected Comrade Kim Jong Un will meet and have a talk with Comrade Putin during the visit.”
The Kremlin also confirmed Kim’s visit, stating that it will take place “in the coming days.”
This announcement comes as a surprise given Kim’s rare international travels, which have been especially limited since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency has reported that “intelligence authorities believe the train presumed to be carrying Kim Jong-un is moving to Vladivostok.”
There is speculation that Kim may hold a meeting with President Putin as soon as Wednesday.
Historically, Russia has been a crucial ally of North Korea, and their diplomatic ties date back to the founding of North Korea 75 years ago.
Despite North Korea’s isolation, Kim has shown unwavering support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with reports suggesting North Korea supplied rockets and missiles to support Moscow’s efforts.
The international community has been closely watching for any signs of North Korea providing military support to Russia in its war against Ukraine.
The White House issued a warning last week, stating that Pyongyang would “pay a price” if it supplies weaponry to Russia for the conflict.
The concern is that such weaponry could be used by Russia to target Ukrainian food supplies and heating infrastructure, particularly as winter approaches.
Experts suggest that this meeting between Kim and Putin is a form of diplomatic pressure by Moscow on Seoul, aimed at discouraging South Korea from supplying arms to Ukraine.
South Korea is a significant arms exporter and has sold tanks to Ukraine’s ally, Poland. However, domestic policy in South Korea prohibits the sale of weapons to countries involved in active conflicts.
Andrei Lankov, a North Korea expert at Kookmin University in Seoul, described this summit as a form of “gentle diplomatic blackmail” by Russia to dissuade South Korea from providing weapons to Ukraine.
Cheong Seong-chang, a researcher at the Sejong Institute, warned that if North Korea were to expand military cooperation with Russia, it could potentially lead to a prolonged conflict in Ukraine.
He also noted that North Korea might receive rewards in return, possibly accelerating the development of its nuclear submarine and reconnaissance satellite capabilities.
Kim Jong Un is known for his preference for train travel when it comes to international trips.
His father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il, famously avoided air travel, and Kim himself has expressed concerns about the potential threat of aerial attacks from Washington.
This visit to Russia follows his 2019 return train journey from Hanoi to Pyongyang after a summit with then-US President Donald Trump. During that trip, Kim hinted at physical fatigue from the extended hours on the train.