North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday and showed him around an arms exhibition held in the capital to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, state-run media in Pyongyang said.
Photos released Thursday by the official Korean Central News Agency showed Kim and Shoigu at the exhibition that featured weaponry including solid-fuel Hwasong-18 and other intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as a new drone.
It is rare for the North Korean leader to host a senior foreign military official at a location where the nation’s advanced weapons are on display.
Shoigu attended a military parade marking the armistice anniversary later Thursday, Russia’s Tass news agency quoted the country’s defense ministry as saying.
The talks between Kim and Shoigu mark the Asian leader’s first contact with a senior foreign official since June 30, 2019, when he met then U.S. President Donald Trump at the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.
KCNA reported that during a meeting with Shoigu a day ahead of the anniversary, the two sides reached a consensus after exchanging views on matters of mutual concern in the field of national defense and security, and on the regional and international security environment.
Kim expressed his views on the issues of mutual concern in the struggle to “safeguard the sovereignty, development and interests of the two countries from the high-handed and arbitrary practices of the imperialists and to realize international justice and peace,” it added.
Shoigu delivered a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Kim and the North Korean leader expressed gratitude to Putin for sending a military delegation, the report said.
Kim attended a celebratory performance that started at midnight Wednesday with the Russian delegation and a Chinese group led by Li Hongzhong, a member of the ruling Communist Party’s Political Bureau, who also handed a personal letter from Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Kim, the news agency added.
The North Korean leader said his country’s people will never forget that Chinese troops “shed blood to bring about the war victory” and affirmed that Pyongyang will “further strengthen the friendship and solidarity with the fraternal Chinese people,” KCNA said.
Pyongyang claims the 1950-1953 Korean War ended in victory over U.S.-led allied forces. Li also met with Choe Ryong Hae, a member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau of the Workers’ Party of Korea, it added.
The delegations from Russia and China, which like North Korea are embroiled in tensions with the United States, are the first known foreign groups to be invited to Pyongyang since the country’s 2020 COVID-19 border closure.
In the war, which began on June 25, 1950, with a North Korean invasion aimed at unification under the Communist regime, U.N. forces led by the United States fought alongside South Korea against the North that was supported by China and the Soviet Union.
Shoigu also met Wednesday with his North Korean counterpart Kang Sun Nam, who expressed at a reception “the full support for the just struggle of the Russian army and people to defend” sovereignty and vowed that Pyongyang will further strengthen “solidarity in the same trench of the anti-imperialist struggle,” KCNA said.
North Korea has openly backed the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Washington claims Pyongyang has supplied arms for use in the war to Moscow, but the Asian country denies the allegation.
The Russian defense minister said at the reception that the North Korean military had become “the strongest army in the world,” according to KCNA.