North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was on his way home on Sunday after concluding his almost week-long Russia trip, which has triggered global concerns about a possible weapons deal between the two countries.
Mr Kim left Russia in his armoured train from the Primorye region in Russia’s Far East following a farewell ceremony held at the Artyom-Primorsky-1 station, Russian state news agency Tass reported.
The distance from Artyom to Khasan station on Russia’s border with North Korea is over 200km.
The US and its allies, including South Korea, have said that the North could provide munitions for Moscow’s war on Ukraine in exchange for sophisticated Russian weapons technology that would advance Mr Kim’s nuclear ambitions.
The North’s leader’s first overseas trip in more than four years included a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin and an inspection of nuclear-capable strategic bombers, hypersonic missiles, and warships.
On Sunday, Mr Kim was spotted in a lighter mood when he toured a university on Russky Island and visited the Primorsky Aquarium, Russia’s largest, where he watched performances featuring beluga whales, bottlenose dolphins, fur seals and “Misha” the walrus, which he seemed to particularly enjoy, according to Russian media.
A video published by Russian media showed Mr Kim dressed in a black suit walking along the red carpet to the train carriage to the music of a military band and waving goodbye.
The North Korean leader’s trip marks a “fresh heyday of friendship and solidarity and cooperation” that is being “opened up in the history of the development of the relations between” the North and Russia, state KCNA news agency said.
Mr Kim met with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, where the duo underscored how their interests are aligning in the face of separate, intensifying confrontations with the West.
A day after visiting an aircraft plant in Komsomolsk-on-Amur that produces Russia’s most powerful fighter jets, Mr Kim on Saturday travelled to an airport near Vladivostok, where defence minister Sergei Shoigu took him on a tour of bombers.
All the Russian warplanes shown to Mr Kim were among the types that have seen active use in the war in Ukraine, including the Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 bombers that have regularly launched cruise missiles.
Mr Shoigu, who had met the North’s leader during a rare visit to Pyongyang in July, also showed Kim another of Russia’s latest missiles – the hypersonic “Kinzhal” – carried by the MiG-31 fighter jet that saw its first combat during the war in Ukraine.
North Korea’s state media reported Mr Kim was accompanied on Saturday’s visits by his top military officials, including his defence minister and the top commanders of his air force and navy.
Following a luncheon, Mr Kim and Mr Shoigu exchanged “constructive opinions on the practical issues arising in further strengthening the strategic and tactical coordination, cooperation and mutual exchange between the armed forces of the two countries”, KCNA said.
Experts have said potential military cooperation between the countries could include efforts to modernise North Korea’s outdated air force, which relies on warplanes sent from the Soviet Union in the 1980s.