North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has “apparently” departed for Russia to meet with President Vladimir Putin, according to South Korean media reports.
On Monday South Korea’s YTN TV, citing an unnamed government source, reported Kim appears to be headed to North Korea’s northeastern border on a special train.
It said the summit with Putin is likely to be held as early as Tuesday. The broadcaster earlier said the meeting could take place on Wednesday.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency also reported on Monday that the North Korean leader’s train “appears” to have left for Russia.
Earlier in the day, Russian news agency Interfax reported Kim was expected to visit the Far East “in the coming days.”
Last week, US officials also released intelligence that preparations had been underway for arranging a meeting between the two leaders.
US and other officials recently told The New York Times that Kim is likely to head by armored train to Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast not far from North Korea, this month to meet Putin.
If confirmed, the trip would be Kim’s first visit abroad in more than four years and the first since the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, he traveled to Vladivostok for his first summit with Putin after the collapse of North Korea’s nuclear disarmament talks with former US President Donald Trump.
In June, Kim had called for “closer strategic cooperation” with Moscow, and “holding hands firmly with the Russian president, in conformity with the common desire of the peoples of the two countries to fulfill the grand goal of building a powerful country.”
Kim also pledged his government’s “full support” for Russia’s war with Ukraine, although not directly mentioning the war, according to the North Korean official news agency KCNA.
Kim praised Putin’s “correct decision and guidance... to foil the hostile forces’ escalating threats.”
Kim has described the war in Ukraine as a US “proxy war” to destroy Russia. He has condemned Western military aid to Kiev and blamed the “hegemonic policy” and “high-handedness” of the United States and the West for the conflict.