Kim Jong Un welcomes Putin in North Korea

AFP

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un embraced Russia's Vladimir Putin upon his arrival at Pyongyang's airport on Wednesday, and the two leaders agreed to develop their nations' relations, North Korean state media said.

Putin, who arrived before dawn, is on his first trip to the North Korean capital in 24 years, a visit likely to reshape decades of Russia-North Korea relations at a time when both countries face international isolation.

The countries' partnership is an "engine for accelerating the building of a new multi-polar world" and Putin's visit demonstrates the invincibility and durability of their friendship and unity, North Korea's state news agency KCNA said.

Russia has used its warming ties with North Korea to needle Washington, while heavily sanctioned North Korea has won political backing and promises of economic support and trade from Moscow.

The United States and its allies say they fear Russia could provide aid for North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, which are banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions, and have accused Pyongyang of providing ballistic missiles and artillery shells that Russia has used in its war in Ukraine.

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied weapons transfers.

Kim greeted Putin, shaking hands, embracing and talking beside the Russian leader's plane. The pair then rode in Putin's Russian-made Aurus limousine to the Kumsusan State Guest House.

Likely given the hour, the welcome was a relatively subdued affair, with Kim greeting the Russian leader on the red carpet without the grand ceremony the North put on for Chinese President Xi Jinping on his 2019 visit.

"Passing through charmingly lit streets of Pyongyang at night, the top leaders exchanged their pent-up inmost thoughts and opened their minds to more surely develop the DPRK-Russia relations," KCNA reported, using the initials of North Korea's official name.

State media photos showed streets of Pyongyang lined with portraits of Putin and the facade of the unfinished and vacant 101-story pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel brightly lit with a giant message "Welcome Putin."

Wednesday's agenda includes one-on-one discussions between the two leaders, as well as a gala concert, state reception, honour guards, document signings and a statement to the media, Russia's Interfax news agency quoted Putin's foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov as saying.

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