(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS Kim’s visit to Russian warship in paras 5-6)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) — North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and inspected Russia’s nuclear-capable bombers, missiles and a warship Saturday after he arrived in Russia’s far eastern city of Vladivostok, Russian media reported.
Kim has been touring Russia’s Far East after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday at the Vostochny space center amid growing concerns over possible military cooperation between the two countries.
Russia’s TASS news agency reported Kim arrived at the Knevichi airfield in Vladivostok on Saturday, where he was greeted by Shoigu and an honor guard.
Guided by Shoigu, Kim looked at Russia’s nuclear-capable strategic bombers — Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22M3 — and its latest hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, according to news reports.
Later in the day, Kim and Shoigu also inspected the Marshal Shaposhnikov frigate of Russia’s Pacific Fleet moored in Ulysses Bay in the port city, according to TASS.
Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy, briefed Kim on the characteristics of the ship and its weapons, it said.
On Friday, Kim visited a Russian aircraft plant that produces advanced fighter jets, including the Sukhoi Su-35, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
During his trip to the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant, Kim said he was “deeply impressed” with the advanced state of Russian aerospace and aviation technology, according to Pyongyang’s state media.
“Saying that he was deeply impressed by the rich independent potential and modernity of the Russian aircraft manufacturing industry and its ceaseless enterprising efforts toward new goals, he sincerely hoped that the plant would make sustained development by achieving higher production growth in the future,” the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
Kim expressed “sincere regard” for Russia’s aviation technology undergoing rapid development and “outpacing the outside potential threats,” it added.
He also “highly appreciated the officials, scientists, technicians and workers of the plant for making a great contribution to the development of the country’s air industry by achieving excellent successes in production with highly advanced technology and strong mental power.”
Founded in 1934, the aviation plant made a “great contribution to defeating fascism” during the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War by producing various kinds of aircraft, including long-range bombers. Today it is the largest Su-type fighter jet manufacturer in Russia, according to the KCNA.
Kim was accompanied by the North’s top party and military officials, including Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui and top advisor Marshal Ri Pyong-chol. Also included in the group were Pak Jong-chon, a leader in the Workers’ Party of Korea and Pak Thae-song, an official in charge of space technology.