North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has vowed support for Russia’s “just fight” during a summit with President Vladimir Putin that the US warned could lead to a deal to supply ammunition for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

After touring launch pads with Mr Putin at a remote space base in Russia’s far east, Mr Kim expressed “full and unconditional support” and said Pyongyang will always stand with Moscow on the “anti-imperialist” front.

The leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome for a summit that underscores how their interests are aligning in the face of their countries’ separate, intensifying confrontations with the United States.

The talks lasted four to five hours, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.

Mr Putin told Russian state TV that the North Korean will visit two more cities in Russia’s far east after the summit.

North Korea may have tens of millions of ageing artillery shells and rockets based on Soviet designs that could give a huge boost to the Russian army in Ukraine, analysts say.

But either buying arms from or providing rocket technology to North Korea would violate international sanctions that Russia has supported in the past.

The decision to meet at the cosmodrome, Russia’s most important launch centre on its own soil, suggests that Mr Kim is seeking Russian help developing military reconnaissance satellites, which he has described as crucial to enhance the threat of his nuclear-capable missiles.

In recent months, North Korea has repeatedly failed to put its first military spy satellite into orbit.

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un shake hands
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Putin welcomed Mr Kim’s limousine, brought from Pyongyang in the North Korean leader’s special armoured train, at the entrance to the launch facility with a handshake that lasted around 40 seconds.

In his opening remarks, Mr Putin welcomed Mr Kim to Russia and said he was glad to see him, saying the talks would cover economic co-operation, humanitarian issues and the “situation in the region”.

Mr Kim, in turn, expressed support for Moscow’s efforts to defend its interests, in an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.

“Russia is currently engaged in a just fight against hegemonic forces to defend its sovereign rights, security and interests,” the North Korean leader said. “I take this opportunity to affirm that we will always stand with Russia on the anti-imperialist front and the front of independence.”

The two men began their meeting with a tour of a Soyuz-2 space rocket launch facility, at which Mr Kim peppered a Russian space official with questions about the rockets.

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un
Vladimir Putin said he was ‘very glad to see’ Kim Jong Un (Artyom Geodakyan, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Kim and Mr Putin then met together with their delegations and later one-on-one, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. After the talks, the Russian president threw an official lunch for Mr Kim, Russian state media reported.

The meeting came hours after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles towards the sea, extending a highly provocative run in North Korean weapons testing since the start of 2022, as Mr Kim used the distraction caused by Mr Putin’s war on Ukraine to accelerate his weapons development.

South Korea’s joint chiefs of staff did not immediately say how far the North Korean missiles flew. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said the missiles landed in the waters outside of the country’s exclusive economic zones and there were no reports of damage to vessels or aircraft.

Official photos showed that Mr Kim was accompanied by Pak Thae Song, chairman of North Korea’s space science and technology committee, and navy admiral Kim Myong Sik, who are linked with North Korean efforts to acquire spy satellites and nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarines, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Asked whether Russia will help North Korea build satellites, Mr Putin was quoted by Russian state media as saying “that’s why we have come here”.

Kim Jong Un
Kim Jong Un last visited Russia four years ago (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

“The DPRK leader shows keen interest in rocket technology. They’re trying to develop space, too,” he added, using the abbreviation for North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Asked about military co-operation, Mr Putin said “we will talk about all issues without a rush. There is time”.

Mr Kim also brought Jo Chun Ryong, a ruling party official in charge of munitions policies, who joined him on recent tours of factories producing artillery shells and missile, according to South Korea.

During the lunch, which reportedly featured delicacies from Siberia and Russia’s far east, Mr Kim said that he and Mr Putin agreed to deepen their “strategic and tactical co-operation”, and that he believes Russia will achieve victory, apparently referring to the war in Ukraine.

“We believe with certainty that the Russian army and people will achieve a great victory in the just fight to punish the evil forces pursuing hegemonic and expansionary ambitions and create a stable environment for national development,” the North Korean leader said.

Despite the recent frequency of North Korean missile firings, Wednesday’s launches on the eve of the summit came as a surprise. South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said it was the first time the North had launched a missile while Mr Kim was travelling overseas.

North Korea Russia
For Mr Kim, the meeting is a chance to get around crippling UN sanctions and years of diplomatic isolation (Press Office of the Primorsky Krai region administration via AP)

Mr Kim could have ordered the launches to make a point to Mr Putin about North Korea’s defence posture and show that he remains in close control of the country’s military activities even while abroad, said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

Mr Moon, a retired South Korean brigadier general who participated in past inter-Korean military talks, said the North with the launches could have also intended to express its anger towards the United States, after State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a press briefing that Mr Putin was meeting “an international pariah to ask for assistance in a war”.

The United States has accused North Korea of providing Russia with arms, including selling artillery shells to the Russian mercenary group Wagner. Both Russian and North Korean officials denied such claims.

Speculation about military co-operation grew after Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu visited North Korea in July.

Mr Kim subsequently toured his weapons factories, which experts said had the dual goal of encouraging the modernisation of North Korean weaponry and examining artillery and other supplies that could be exported to Russia.