Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gifted each other rifles when they met at a space centre in Russia week, the Kremlin said, while the Russian leader also presented his counterpart from Pyongyang with a glove from a cosmonaut’s space suit.
Travelling onboard his armoured train from North Korea, Kim met with Putin on Wednesday at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur region of the Russian Far East, where the two leaders greeted each other warmly with a 40-second handshake.
Asked whether the two had exchanged gifts, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that Putin gave Kim a high-quality Russian-made rifle and a glove from a spacesuit “that had been in space several times”.
In turn, Kim gave Putin a North Korean-made gun, among other gifts, Peskov said.
The Russian president “gave [Kim] a rifle from our production of the highest quality. In return, he also received a North Korean-made rifle,” Peskov said.
Putin has a keen interest in the outdoor life and hunting, posting numerous photos of himself over the years engaged in outdoor pursuits in the Russian countryside with other senior officials.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin walks with a rifle in southern Siberia’s Tuva region in 2007 [File: RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters]
Moscow also confirmed on Thursday that Putin “gratefully accepted Kim’s invitation” to visit the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, which North Korea’s state television had earlier announced.
Peskov said Moscow will first “quickly prepare” to send Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Pyongyang, with his trip expected in October, before a Putin visit can be arranged.
It would be Putin’s second trip to North Korea. He last visited in July 2000 to meet Kim’s late father Kim Jong-il, just months after being elected to the presidency. Kim last visited Russia in 2019.
While Putin returned to Moscow after their meeting on Wednesday, Kim’s visit is expected to continue for several more days, the Kremlin said.
On Friday, Kim arrived in the Russian Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur to visit a facility where Russian fighter jets are built, Russia’s state-run TASS news agency reported.
TASS reported that Kim was met by the regional governor and other officials on a red carpet at the town’s railway station. He was then whisked off to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant, which produces Russia’s most modern warplanes, including the Su-35 and Su-57, TASS said.
Workers prepare a temporary wooden ramp at the railway station for the arrival of the armoured train carrying North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in the Russian Far Eastern Amur region, on September 14, 2023 [AP Photo]
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti published a video which showed Kim’s armoured train pulling into the Komsomolsk-on-Amur station as North Korean officials waited by a specially constructed ramp and red carpet. Shortly afterwards, his convoy swept out of the station to visit the aircraft plant.
Putin told Russian state TV earlier that Kim would also travel to Vladivostok to view Russia’s Pacific fleet, a university and other facilities.
In North Korea, state media have praised Kim’s summit with Putin as “historic”.
South Korean media reported that officials in Seoul are monitoring whether North Korea and Russia will announce joint military drills following the meeting of the two leaders.
There is growing concern about increased military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang as Putin and Kim’s delegations include senior military figures.
South Korea’s Defence Ministry spokesman Jeon Ha-kyou said there “have been numerous such predictions” regarding closer military ties between Putin and Kim.
“While keeping that possibility in mind, [we] will continue to closely monitor for it,” the spokesman said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency.
Russia’s Putin presented North Korea’s Kim with a Russian rifle of the ‘highest quality’ and received a gun in return.