Vladimir Putin was at a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the victory in the Battle of Kursk in World War II
Kim and Putin last met in 2019, and US officials speculate that in this meeting Putin is likely to focus on securing more supplies of North Korean arms for the Ukraine conflict. AFP News

There are growing concerns in the West that Pyongyang plans to provide weapons to Moscow to replenish shells and ammunition that have been heavily depleted during 18 months of fighting in Ukraine.

North Korea, which has faced years of international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program, needs food supplies, income and missile technology - things that Russia could supply in return for munitions.

US officials believe Putin is likely to focus on securing more supplies of North Korean arms for the Ukraine conflict.

Despite being sanctioned by the UN, Kim has been developing his ballistic missile program rapidly for the past two years. He tested dozens of missiles, one of which is an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that poses an increased nuclear threat to the US as well as concerns about the Ukraine conflict becoming extended.

Russian diplomat Dmitry Peskov dismissed US warnings on any arms deal. Russian news agencies quoted him saying: "As you know, while implementing our relations with our neighbours... the interests of our countries are important to us, and not warnings from Washington."

The meeting is thought to include Kim's prominent party members in charge of defence industry and military affairs, including munitions industry department director Jo Chun-ryong.

Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at Washington-based Stimson Centre, said: "The presence of Jo Chun-ryong indicates that North Korea and Russia will conclude some type of agreement for munitions purchases."

White House's National Security Council spokesperson, Adrienne Watson, said: "We urge the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) to abide by the public commitments that Pyongyang has made to not provide or sell arms to Russia."

Last Tuesday, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned against Kim giving Putin North Korean arms, saying that North Korea will "pay a price" if it strikes an arms deal with Russia.

The US State Department characterised Putin as desperate regarding the Ukraine conflict and reiterated warnings that an arms agreement could provoke sanctions from the US.

The State Department spokesperson, Matthew Miller, said: "Having to travel across the length of his own country to meet with an international pariah to ask for assistance in a war that he expected to win in the opening month, I would characterise it as him begging for assistance."

He continued: "I will remind both countries that any transfer of [North Korean arms] to Russia would be in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions."

South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson Jeon Ha-kyu also said the ministry is closely monitoring whether North Korea and Russia will proceed with negotiations on an arms deal and technology transfer.

Speaking to CNN before the meeting, Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul said a one-to-one between Kim and Putin would be a "very significant development".

After reports emerged of North Korean arms sales to Russia in September 2022, a North Korean Defence Ministry official said at the time that Pyongyang had "never exported weapons or ammunition to Russia before and we will not plan to export them".

By Kaja Traczyk

Kaja Traczyk is a reporter for the International Business Times UK and a Journalism Undergraduate with experience in news writing, reporting, and researching.