Kim does not travel abroad often and, when he does, it is often shrouded in secrecy and security. He travels by a special train with its signature olive green carriages that are said to be armoured and equipped with communications systems and a personal suite for Kim to work and confer with aides.
A summit between Kim and Putin would likely focus on military cooperation and possibly a deal to supply arms, US and South Korean officials and analysts have said.
North Korea is believed to have a large stockpile of artillery ammunition that would be compatible with Russian weapons and could help supplement the supplies being rapidly used on the Ukrainian frontlines.
The United States has said it would be a “huge mistake” for North Korea to supply Russia with weapons to use in Ukraine and warned Pyongyang would “pay a price”.
The deepening relationship between Kim and Putin signals a further global split over the war, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, the Korea Chair at the Brussels School of Governance.
“North Korea’s support will allow Putin to wage his war for longer, which is bad news for Europe,” he said. “It is further proof that much of the world doesn’t support Ukraine in the way the US and Europe do, and some countries such as North Korea will openly support Russia without fear of any real consequences.”
In Vladivostok, there was a higher police presence than usual on the streets but no North Korean flags had been put up – unlike ahead of Kim’s previous trip when the city was adorned with the red five-pointed stars that grace the North’s flag.