North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspected warships, toured an airfield and was shown nuclear-capable bombers along with hypersonic ‘Kinzhal’ missiles during his visit to far east Russia despite criticisms from Western nations.
Mr Kim, who extended his stay in Russia, travelled to the port city of Vladivostok on Saturday to hold talks with defence minister Sergei Shoigu at the Knevichi airfield.
He then proceeded to inspect the Pacific Fleet frigate Marshal Shaposhnikov.
Isolated from the rest of the world, Mr Kim and Russian president Vladimir Putin held a summit this week in Russia’s far east where they agreed to help prop up each other’s regime.
Russian Navy commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov briefed Mr Kim on the ship's capabilities and weapons, which include long-range Kalibr cruise missiles used by Russian warships to fire at targets in its war against Ukraine.
The North Korean leader arrived in the city of Artyom – about 25 miles northeast of Vladivostok – before the visit to the airport where he was shown Russia's nuclear-capable strategic bombers.
All the types of Russian warplanes shown to Mr Kim on Saturday were among those actively used in the war in Ukraine, including the Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers that have regularly launched cruise missiles.
Mr Shoigu also showed off Russia's latest missile, the hypersonic Kinzhal which is carried by the MiG-31 fighter jet.
Mr Kim reappeared on Friday in the far eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur for a visit to a plant producing Russia's Su-57 fighter jets.
Mr Kim's plans to see Russian naval ships in Vladivostok could be another hint at what he wants from Russia, possibly in exchange for supplying munitions to refill Mr Putin's declining reserves as his invasion of Ukraine becomes a drawn-out war of attrition.
Mr Kim during his visit to the aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur expressed "sincere regard" for what he described as Russia's rapidly advancing aviation technologies, which he said were "outpacing the outside potential threats", Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.
Russia's cabinet released a video on Friday showing Mr Kim on an elevated platform looking at the cockpit of a Su-57 while listening to its pilot. His top military officer, army Marshal Ri Pyong Chol, said his leader's visit to the facility "added another glorious page" to the relations between the countries, according to KCNA.
Mr Kim emphasised in recent months the need to strengthen his navy to counter the advanced naval assets of the US. Washington has lately expanded its combined military exercises with South Korea to counter the North's growing threat.
Analysts say Mr Kim's focus on naval strength could be driven by ambitions to obtain sophisticated technologies for ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-propelled submarines as well as to initiate joint naval exercises between Russia and North Korea.
Mr Putin on Friday briefed Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko about his summit with the North’s leader. During their meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Mr Lukashenko suggested Belarus could join Russia and North Korea in "three-way cooperation”.
Mr Kim's trip to Russia, his first since April 2019 when he met Putin in Vladivostok, came days after he attended a ceremony at a North Korean military shipyard where the country unveiled the alleged nuclear attack submarine.
State media claimed it is capable of launching tactical nuclear weapons from underwater. But South Korea's military expressed doubt about the operational capabilities of the sub, which was the result of reshaping an existing submarine to install missile launch tubes.
Mr Kim has announced goals to acquire nuclear-propelled submarines, which can quietly travel long distances and approach enemy shores to deliver strikes, a key asset in his efforts to build a viable nuclear arsenal that could threaten the US. Analysts say such capacities would be unfeasible for the North without external assistance.
Mr Putin on Friday reiterated that Russia would abide by UN sanctions, some of which ban North Korea from exporting or importing any weapons.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov separately said that no agreements on bilateral military cooperation were signed after the Putin-Kim meeting on Wednesday.
With agency inputs