China is the key to restraining a potential arms deal between Moscow and Pyongyang, an expert on North Korean military and politics has said as Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Kim Jong Un appear poised to meet for talks in Russia’s Far East.
Kim arrived onboard his armoured train at the Russian border on Tuesday morning, crossing the frontier at Russia’s Khasan city en route to the meeting where the Russian leader is expected to seek access to stockpiles of North Korean ammunition, which Moscow badly needs to feed its war in Ukraine.
The two leaders find themselves in changed circumstances since they last met in 2019, said Fyodor Tertitskiy, a historian of North Korea and leading researcher at Kookmin University’s Institute for Korean Studies in South Korea’s capital Seoul.
Both leaders have items to trade, advantages to gain and pressures at home that might encourage them to align their strategic interests more closely when they meet in Russia.
However, any agreement will be an “alliance of convenience” and one in which China – being the largest trading partner as well as Moscow and Pyongyang’s most powerful political patron – will tacitly have great influence in deciding the outcome, Tertitskiy said.
“The relationship between these two nations is based on lots of deception and rhetoric,” Tertitskiy told Al Jazeera, contextualising the current state of relations between Russia and North Korea.