Putin to visit North Korea as Russia seeks more ammunition

Vladimir Putin is set to visit North Korea and Vietnam in the near future. Reports from Russian media, citing "diplomatic sources," indicate that Putin plans to visit North Korea and Vietnam in June. The Russian ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, confirmed that preparations for the visit to Pyongyang are "actively underway."

As relations with South Korea deteriorate, Pyongyang has aligned itself with countries opposing the US and Western hegemony, as stated by Kim Jong Un. Russia has emerged as a key partner, with Kim visiting the country in September 2023.

Notably, the details of the agreements between Moscow and Pyongyang have not been disclosed. It is widely believed that North Korea supplies Russia with shells and rockets in exchange for military and technical assistance in missile programs, though both nations have officially denied this.

Experts say the discussions between Putin and Kim Jong Un will likely extend beyond the shell and missile deal.

"The key unresolved issue for Russia is ammunition. Various sources indicate that Russia is not fully supplied by North Korea, and the quality of the munitions is extremely poor. The discussions will likely focus on quality, quantity, and pricing. Russia may offer services to help North Korea with famine prevention and other pressing issues," stated Igor Semyvolos, director of the Middle Eastern Studies Center.

With rising tensions in the East Pacific region, the talks might also cover Taiwan and joint efforts against the US.

Semyvolos added that the trip might be a continuation of Putin’s visit to China, aimed at forming an alliance against the US and its regional allies. He argues that Ukraine's allies, including the US, cannot prevent North Korea from supporting Russia without involving China.

Political analyst Alexander Kochetkov stated that due to the International Criminal Court's decision, Putin's travel options are limited. "His visit to North Korea serves to show a domestic audience that Russia is not isolated," said Kochetkov.

Kochetkov noted: "Russia has promised North Korea aviation technology, which seems to be falling through, while the quality of the ammunition from North Korea remains a significant issue. North Korea is getting rid of old stockpiles while improving its own arsenals. Putin will likely focus on the quality of North Korean aid."

North Korea's major decisions are influenced by China, upon whom it heavily relies for resources more than Russia. Therefore, no new substantial aid from North Korea to Russia is expected. Nonetheless, North Korea may increase its supply of KN-23/KN-24 ballistic missiles with a range of about 500 kilometers, Kochetkov added.

Putin aims to renew Soviet-era ties, but with Vietnam — which is cautious not to provoke global confrontation — he is unlikely to receive significant support. "The Kremlin wants to portray Putin's visit to Vietnam as breaking the diplomatic blockade," Kochetkov concluded.

Putin has visited Vietnam multiple times, with his last visit in 2013. He has visited North Korea only once in 2000, when Kim Jong Il was the leader.

NBC News reports that Putin aims to solidify a new agreement for expanded military technology supplies to Pyongyang. Russia is providing North Korea with technology for building nuclear submarines and ballistic missiles in exchange for ammunition for the war in Ukraine.

"High-quality technical assistance from Russia is very hard to monitor," noted a senior White House official to NBC News.

Furthermore, it is thought that China may oppose such an agreement, as it prefers regional stability. NBC News suggests that while Putin is encouraging Kim Jong Un, an ultimate decision has not yet been made.

  Putin, North Korea, Vietnam