SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to discuss military issues and the regional security environment, state media said Thursday as the country celebrated the 70th anniversary of an armistice that halted fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said Kim and Shoigu talked Wednesday in the capital, Pyongyang, and reached a consensus on unspecified “matters of mutual concern in the field of national defense and security and on the regional and international security environment.”
The report did not specify what was discussed.
KCNA also said Kim took Shoigu to an arms exhibition that showcased some of North Korea’s newest weapons and briefed him on national plans to expand the country’s military capabilities. Photos from the exhibition showed Kim gesturing while talking to Shoigu as they walked near a row of large missiles mounted on launcher trucks.
In a rare case of diplomatic opening since the start of the pandemic, North Korea invited delegations from Russia and China to attend the events marking the armistice of July 27, 1953. While the truce left the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war, the North still sees it as a victory in the “Grand Fatherland Liberation War.”
The North Korean festivities were widely expected to be capped by a giant military parade in Pyongyang, where Kim could showcase his most powerful, nuclear-capable missiles designed to target neighboring rivals and the U.S. mainland. State media, however, had not confirmed plans for a military parade.
Some experts say North Korea sees U.S. confrontations with China and Russia over regional influence and the aggression in Ukraine as an opportunity to break out of diplomatic isolation and insert itself into a united front against Washington.
On Wednesday, Shoigu also held talks with North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun Nam that were aimed at “strengthening cooperation between our defense departments,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.
North Korea has been aligning with Russia over the war in Ukraine, insisting that the “hegemonic policy” of the U.S.-led West forced Moscow to take military action to protect its security interests. The Biden administration has accused North Korea of providing arms to Russia to aid its fighting in Ukraine, although the North has denied the claim.
Both Moscow and Beijing have been derailing U.S. efforts to strengthen U.N. Security Council sanctions on North Korea over its flurry of missile tests.