SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted talks Wednesday with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in eastern Russia amid warnings from the U.S. and South Korea against a potential arms transfer.
Putin and Kim first toured the Vostochny cosmodrome, where reporters asked if Russia will help North Korea build satellites.
"That's why we came here," Putin said, according to Russian state media. "The leader of the DPRK shows great interest in rocket engineering; they are also trying to develop space."
As Kim visited Russia, North Korea on Wednesday fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea off its east coast. South Korea's military said the missiles were launched from near Pyongyang and flew about 650 kilometers.
Ahead of the talks, South Korean officials said they were closely monitoring the first meeting between Kim and Putin in four years.
"The Ministry of National Defense believes that Kim Jong-un probably entered Russia early this morning using a private train," said spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyu, citing "the presence of a large number of military personnel" that accompany Kim.
"We are closely watching whether negotiations related to arms trade and technology transfer between North Korea and Russia will take place," he added.
A train resembling one used by Kim Jong Un on his previous travels is seen on the North Korea border with Russia and China from China's Yiyanwang Three Kingdoms viewing platform in Fangchuan in northeastern China's Jilin province, Sept. 11, 2023.
Kim and Putin reportedly will discuss North Korea supplying Russia with more weapons to be used in its war against Ukraine and other military operations, while Kim appears to be looking for Russia to give North Korea advanced technology for its satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as food assistance.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Kim's visit to Russia will be "full-fledged." 'There will be negotiations between two delegations, and after that, if necessary, the leaders will continue their communication in a one-on-one format.'
The U.S. and South Korea have renewed warnings to North Korea not to provide munitions to Russia that could be used in the Ukraine war.
"No United Nations member country should violate the U.N. Security Council sanctions and resolutions, including [engaged in] illegal arms trade," said South Korea's foreign ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk during a Tuesday briefing.
This picture taken on September 10, 2023 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 12, 2023 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un receiving a send-off as he departs from Pyongyang. (AFP PHOTO/KCNA via KNS)
In Washington, State Department said any transfer of arms from North Korea to Russia would be in violation of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.
'We of course have aggressively enforced our sanctions against entities that fund Russia's war effort, and we will continue to enforce those sanctions and will not hesitate to impose new sanctions if appropriate," according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller during a Monday briefing.
But some analysts are skeptical that weapons provided by North Korea to Russia could have substantial impact on Ukraine war.
FILE - This picture released Apr. 26, 2019, by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) shows Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shaking hands a day earlier prior to their talks on Russky island.
"North Korean aid to Russia, as far as we know, is going to come in the form of small arms aid. It's probably not going to be in the form of weapons of mass destruction, or any other sort of weaponry that's going to necessarily turn the tide in Ukraine," Honolulu-based Pacific Forum analyst Rob York told VOA on Tuesday.
Kim held his first summit meeting with Putin on April 25, 2019, at the Russian port city of Vladivostok.
Lee Juhyun contributed to this report.