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(LEAD) N. Korean leader returns home after trip to Russia: state media

14:44 September 19, 2023

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 2, 6-10; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- Leader Kim Jong-un has crossed back into North Korea after a trip to Russia that "opened a new chapter" for the development of the bilateral relations between the two nations, Pyongyang's state media reported Tuesday.

Kim passed through the Tumangang Railway Station on the border between the two countries early Monday morning, after completing his "official goodwill visit" to Russia, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Kim, who left Pyongyang on his armored train on Sept. 10, held a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday and toured a series of key military sites amid growing concerns of a possible arms deal between the two nations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attends a send-off ceremony before departing Vladivostok on Sept. 17, 2023, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency the next day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

The North's leader "further deepened the comradely fellowship and friendly ties with Putin and the government and people of Russia and opened a new chapter of the development of the DPRK-Russia relations," KCNA reported, using the acronym of North Korea's official name.

During talks with Putin, Kim pledged to offer full support for Russia, saying that the Russian army and people will triumph over "evil" forces, in an apparent endorsement of Russia's war in Ukraine.

The North's leader visited a fighter jet plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia's Far East region and also held talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Vladivostok to discuss ways to bolster bilateral military cooperation.

South Korea's unification ministry said that progress in cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow would depend on whether Putin's trip to North Korea will materialize.

The Kremlin said last week that Putin has accepted Kim's offer to visit North Korea during their summit held at Russia's Vostochny spaceport.

"Unlike four years ago, the two nations displayed close, friendly relations as their demands met each other. They will likely cooperate in areas involving such demands," a ministry official said, referring to Moscow's need to replenish ammunition for its war in Ukraine and Pyongyang's push to launch a spy satellite in October.

In April 2019, the North's state media said Putin had accepted Kim's offer to visit Pyongyang during their first summit in Vladivostok. But at that time, the Kremlin did not confirm it, nor did Putin visit the North.

This image, captured from footage of North Korea's state-run Korean Central Television on Sept. 14, 2023, shows the North's leader Kim Jong-un (L) and Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a summit at Russia's Vostochny spaceport the previous day. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)


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