North Korea’s Kim, Russia’s Putin exchange letters vowing stronger ties

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin exchanged letters on Tuesday pledging to develop their ties into what Kim called a “long-standing strategic relationship,” Pyongyang’s state media KCNA said.

The letters mark the 78th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule, which is also celebrated as a national holiday in South Korea.

In his letter to Putin, Kim said the two countries’ friendship was forged in World War II with victory over Japan and is now “fully demonstrating their invincibility and might in the struggle to smash the imperialists’ arbitrary practices and hegemony,” KCNA said.

“I am firmly convinced that the friendship and solidarity … will be further developed into a long-standing strategic relationship in conformity with the demand of the new era,” Kim was quoted as saying in the letter.

“The two countries will always emerge victorious, strongly supporting and cooperating with each other in the course of achieving their common goal and cause.”

The United States has accused North Korea of providing weapons to Russia for its war in Ukraine, including artillery shells, shoulder-fired rockets and missiles. Pyongyang and Moscow have denied any arms transactions.

Last month, Russia’s defence minister stood shoulder to shoulder with Kim as they reviewed North Korea’s newest nuclear-capable missiles and attack drones at a military parade in Pyongyang.

Putin, in his message to Kim, also pledged to bolster bilateral ties.

“I am sure that we will strengthen the bilateral cooperation in all fields for the two peoples’ well-being and the firm stability and security of the Korean peninsula and the whole of Northeast Asia,” Putin said, according to KCNA.

The leaders of South Korea, the United States and Japan are set to discuss security cooperation over North Korea, Ukraine and other issues at a trilateral summit on Aug. 18 at Camp David.

In a separate KCNA dispatch, Pyongyang’s vice foreign minister, Kim Son Gyong, criticised the United States for calling a U.N. Security Council meeting on North Korea’s human rights situation.

The meeting, set for Thursday and requested by the United States, Albania and Japan, would be the first formal public gathering of the 15-member council on the issue since 2017, but China opposed it, saying it would only “intensify confrontation and antagonism.”

Kim, the vice minister, said the planned meeting “openly exposed the ugly hostile face of the U.S. filled with a sense of confrontation,” while highlighting the reality of the council which has “fallen into dysfunction under the U.S.’s forced authority and abuse of power.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Susan Fenton)