North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has inspected Russia’s hypersonic ‘Kinzhal’ missiles as well as strategic, nuclear-capable bombers in the latest stop on his tour of Russian space, military and other technological facilities in the country’s Far East, according to Russian-language news media reports.
Oleg Kozhemyako, the governor of Russia’s Primorsky region, announced Kim’s arrival in the city of Artyom, about 40km (25 miles) northeast of Vladivostok on Saturday.
Kozhemyako released a video showing a smiling Kim’s arrival on board his private, armoured train and being greeted by children presenting flowers.
After arriving in Artyom, Kim then travelled to the Vladivostok airport just outside the city where he was shown Russia’s nuclear-capable strategic bombers and other warplanes by Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and other senior military officials.
Shoigu introduced Kim to Russia’s latest missile, the hypersonic Kinzhal – which means ‘dagger’ in Russian – an air-launched ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear or conventional warheads.
The Kinzhal has a reported range of 1,500 to 2,000 km (930-1,240 miles) while carrying a payload of 480kg (1,100 pounds). It may travel at up to 10 times the speed of sound (12,000 kph or 7,700 mph).
Kim was also shown three models of strategic bombers – the Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M3, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency, aircraft that are regularly used by Russia to launch missiles in the ongoing war in Ukraine.
“It can fly from Moscow to Japan and then back again,” Shoigu told Kim of one of the aircraft.
Kim was shown asking how missiles were fired from the aircraft. A Russian official told him that the strategic bombers were one of the key parts of Russia’s nuclear forces.
Starting his visit to Russia on Wednesday by holding a summit with President Vladimir Putin at Russia’s main Vostochny Сosmodrome spaceport, North Korea’s leader next reappeared on Friday in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur for a visit to a plant producing Russia’s Su-57 fighter jets.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said on Saturday that during his visit to the aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Kim expressed “sincere regard” for what he described as Russia’s rapidly advancing aviation technologies, which he said were “outpacing the outside potential threats”, a comment Russian media also highlighted.
Russia’s cabinet on Friday released a video showing Kim on an elevated platform looking at the cockpit of an Su-57 warplane while listening to its pilot. Kim also beamed and clapped his hands when an Su-35 fighter jet landed after a demonstration flight.
Experts have said that potential military cooperation between Russia and North Korea following Kim’s visit could include efforts to modernise North Korea’s outdated air force, which relies on warplanes sent from the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Kim was also scheduled to visit the Russian naval ships in Vladivostok later on Saturday.
Putin and Kim discussed military matters, the war in Ukraine, and deepening cooperation when they met on Wednesday, but the Russian leader told reporters that Moscow was “not going to violate anything”, referring to longstanding sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations.
The United States, however, has warned that Russia has advanced in talks with North Korea to gain access to stockpiles of artillery and rockets that can be used by Moscow in its war in Ukraine. / Al Jazeera