North Korean leader ends Russia trip with ‘heartfelt thanks…

SEOUL: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un expressed his “heartfelt thanks” to President Vladimir Putin, state media said on Monday (Sep 18), as he headed home after nearly a week in Russia on a defence-focused trip.

Kim’s tour of Russia’s Far East, which began on Tuesday, has showcased potential military ties, with North Korea’s leader inspecting everything from Russian space rockets to submarines, and including a symbolic exchange of rifles with Putin

The trip has fanned Western fears that the isolated, nuclear-armed country could provide Moscow with weapons for its assault on Ukraine.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency on Monday said Kim “extended his heartfelt thanks to President Putin and the Russian leadership” for “their special care and cordial hospitality” as he wrapped up the visit.

He also wished “Russia prosperity and its people well-being”, the KCNA report added.

North Korea and Russia, historic allies, are both under rafts of global sanctions – Moscow for its Ukraine offensive, Pyongyang for its nuclear weapon tests.

During his tour to Russia, Kim said his country – which has Beijing as its most crucial ally and economic benefactor – would make bilateral ties with Moscow its “number one priority”, as he held a rare summit with Putin.

Russia is eager for North Korea’s stockpile of artillery shells to be used in Ukraine, while Pyongyang is looking for help with satellite technology and upgrading its Soviet-era military equipment, experts say.

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