President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia welcomed the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, to a space facility in far eastern Russia on Wednesday for a summit that was being scrutinized for indications that Pyongyang will supply armaments the Kremlin needs for its war in Ukraine.
During the day of events, Mr. Kim expressed confidence in Russia’s ability to win the war, following the Kremlin’s lead in casting the conflict as a war against the collective West rather than against Ukraine. Giving a lunchtime toast, Mr. Kim said Russia would “win a great victory in the sacred struggle to punish the band of evil that aspires to hegemony and feeds on expansionist illusions,” according to Russian news agencies.
Mr. Kim also said he had reached a consensus with Mr. Putin “on further strengthening strategic and tactical cooperation, support and solidarity in the struggle to protect the sovereign right of security.” He didn’t go into detail about what that meant.
The two leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur region, first entering group discussions alongside their respective ministers and later moving into a tête-à-tête. The talks lasted roughly two hours in total before the delegations broke for lunch.
Heading into the talks, Russian officials emphasized that Moscow planned to expand its bilateral relationship with North Korea, despite United Nations Security Council sanctions on the nation over its nuclear weapons program and U.S. warnings against any arms transfers. But they did not directly address the possibility of receiving artillery shells from Pyongyang.
After the discussions, Mr. Putin said on state television on Wednesday that there were “certain restrictions” regarding military cooperation between the two countries, but added: “There are things we of course can talk about. We are discussing and thinking about it.”
Mr. Kim and Mr. Putin have both been isolated by the West, but the war in Ukraine has elevated the North Korean leader’s significance to the Kremlin. Mr. Putin’s invasion has dragged on for nearly 19 months, he needs allies and North Korea is one of the few countries willing to supply Russia with weapons.
North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles off its east coast on Wednesday, the first time the country had conducted a missile test during one of Mr. Kim’s rare trips abroad. While waiting for Mr. Kim to arrive at the space facility, Mr. Putin was asked whether Moscow would help Pyongyang with satellites and rockets.
“That’s why we came here,” Mr. Putin said, according to footage of the remarks released on Telegram. “We have good expertise, and we will show him our new infrastructure facilities.”
Despite international sanctions and domestic economic hardship, North Korea operates one of the world’s largest standing armies and a vigorous defense industry. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that North Korea was shipping artillery shells and rockets for Russian troops in Ukraine.
North Korea also has one of the largest fleets of tanks in the world, though most are Soviet-era models. However, as Russian forces try to fend off a counteroffensive in Ukraine, Moscow urgently needs to replenish its depleted arsenals with tanks and artillery, according to military experts.
Mr. Kim arrived in Russia on Tuesday from North Korea, having traveled to the meeting on his armored train, a trip that took days.
In recent weeks, Mr. Kim has visited North Korean munitions factories, urging them to expedite the production of multiple rocket launches, sniper rifles, drones and missiles, according to the country’s state media.
Pyongyang wants Russian parts for its Soviet-era military and civilian aircraft, as well as technological help for its nuclear and missile programs.
North Korea may also seek wheat shipments from Russia in return for weapons to help alleviate its chronic food shortages, analysts said. It also hopes to resume exporting construction and logging workers to Russia to bring in cash.
After the summit, Mr. Kim will continue on a tour of Russia, visiting Komsomolsk-on-Amur to see civilian and military aviation factories before arriving in Vladivostok to visit a marine biology laboratory and witness a military demonstration of the capabilities of Russia’s Pacific Fleet, Mr. Putin said on Wednesday.
Alina Lobzina contributed reporting.