North Korea’s Kim inspects sanctioned fighter jet plant in Russia, nods approval
- He visited a number of workshops including that of Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100, and watched a demonstration flight of the Su – 35, nodding with approval
- South Korea and the US are worried about the revival of Moscow’s friendship with Pyongyang and say such cooperation is a violation of UN sanctions
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected a Russian fighter jet factory that is under Western sanctions on Friday, part of a visit Washington and its allies fear could strengthen Russia’s military in Ukraine and bolster Pyongyang’s missile programme.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kim discussed military matters, the war in Ukraine and deepening cooperation with Kim when they met at a summit on Wednesday.
South Korea and the United States said on Friday that military cooperation between North Korea and Russia was a violation of UN sanctions and that the allies would ensure there is a price to pay.
Kim, 39, on Friday visited aviation facilities in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant and the Yakovlev plant, both units of United Aircraft Corporation, which is sanctioned by the West.
At the Gagarin plant, which is also specifically sanctioned by the United States, Kim inspected the assembly workshops where the Sukhoi Su-35 multirole fighter and the Su-57 fighter are made, escorted by Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, the government said.
Kim, dressed in a suit and accompanied by North Korean military officials in uniform, was shown on Russian state television carefully inspecting the cockpit of a fighter jet as Russian officials explained its capabilities via a translator.
He then inspected workshops where the fuselage compartments and wing assemblies of Russia’s Sukhoi Superjet 100 are made before watching a demonstration flight of the Su–35. He nodded with approval as the fighter performed.
Russia has gone out of its way publicise the visit and to drop repeated hints about the prospect of military cooperation with North Korea, which was formed in 1948 with the backing of the Soviet Union.
For Putin, who says Russia is locked in an existential battle with the West over Ukraine, courting Kim allows him to needle Washington and its Asian allies while potentially securing a deep supply of artillery for Ukraine war.
Washington has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia, which has the world’s biggest store of nuclear warheads, but it is unclear whether any deliveries have been made.
The United States and South Korea appear worried by the revival of Moscow’s friendship with Pyongyang which they fear could give Kim access to some of Russia’s sensitive missile and other technology.
US and South Korean officials called on Moscow to show responsibility as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.