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Kim Jong-un shows off ICBMs to Russian defense minister

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (second right) and Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visit an exhibition of armed equipment on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in this image released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency on July 27, 2023. (via Reuters)

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un on Thursday showed off his country's ICBMs and previously unseen drones to visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as a showcase of North Korea's military might.

Shoigu, who leads a Russian delegation, arrived in the capital Pyongyang at the formal invitation of the North Korean government to attend the peninsular country's celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, which ended open hostilities and is celebrated as Victory Day.

A Chinese delegation, led by Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong, also arrived in Pyongyang to attend the same anniversary events, which are expected to include a major military parade in the capital.

On Thursday, Kim gave Shoigu a tour of North Korea's arsenal, including the Hwasong intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which was successfully tested in April.

The Russian minister also visited two new drone designs, including one resembling the primary offensive strike drone used by the US Air Force, according to NK News, a specialist site focusing on North Korea.

According to a report by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim and Shoigu visited the "Weapons and Equipment Exhibition 2023."

The report also showed photos and footage that featured North Korea's largest intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Hwasong-17, and the Hwasong-18 solid-fuel ICBM.

Before visiting North Korea's newest and most advanced weaponry, Kim and Shoigu had discussed "matters of mutual concern in the field of national defense and security and on the regional and international security environment," KCNA added.

During the visit to the defense exhibition, Kim told Shoigu "about the weapons and equipment which were invented and produced" under North Korea's national defense plan and "repeatedly expressed belief that the Russian army and people would achieve big successes", the report further said.

Shoigu is making the first visit by a Russian defense minister to North Korea since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"(Kim) expressed his views on the issues of mutual concern in the struggle to safeguard the sovereignty, development and interests of the two countries from the high-handed and arbitrary practices of the imperialists and to realize international justice and peace," KCNA said.

The North Korean state media did not refer to Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine but said that Kim "repeatedly expressed belief that the Russian army and people would achieve big successes in the struggle for building a powerful country."

Citing North Korean Defense Minister Kang Sun-nam as saying, KCNA reported that North Korea fully supported Russia's "battle for justice" and was determined to protect its sovereignty.

North Korea has backed Russia over the war in Ukraine, insisting that the “hegemonic policy” of the US-led NATO military alliance of Western governments forced Moscow to take military action to protect its national security interests.

The United States, in turn, has accused Pyongyang of providing arms to Russia to help combat the West-supplied Ukrainian forces. North Korea and Russia have, however, dismissed US claims as part of its usual publicity campaign against unfriendly countries.

Russia and China, meanwhile, have stood firm against US-led efforts at the United Nations Security Council to impose more sanctions against North Korea over its growing missile tests in response to increasing US military presence and war games in the Korean Peninsula.

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