'Just fight': Putin hosts North Korea's Kim Jong Un at Siberian spaceport

North Korea's Kim Jong Un told Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country would always stand by Moscow as it defends its security interests on the "anti-imperialist front," as the two authoritarian leaders met at a space base and adjoining rocket facility in a far-flung corner of eastern Russia on Wednesday.

Kim and Putin's face-to-face talks, at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Siberia, lasted four to five hours, according to Russian state media, which has been publishing some of their remarks addressed to reporters.

The talks were being closely watched by Ukraine and Western military powers for signs of an arms deal that could help Russia's war in Ukraine, which Moscow has consistently claimed is partly due to what it sees as a threat posed by NATO enlargement. Any such deal would violate international sanctions that Russia supported in the past. U.S. officials have warned that North Korea will "pay a price" if it strikes an arms deal with Russia.

The United Nations has passed nearly a dozen resolutions sanctioning North Korea for developing nuclear weapons and related activities. The U.S. Treasury has imposed its own unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang targeting its economic activities and a larger list of individuals and businesses

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome, on Sept. 13, 2023.

As Kim and Putin toured the facility, Putin said they would discuss "all issues." He also said that North Korea's leader is interested in getting Russian help to develop satellites for its space program. Kim offered Putin his country’s "full and unconditional support" for Russia’s "just fight," an apparent reference to the war in Ukraine.

"We are confident that the Russian army and people will certainly win a great victory in the holy struggle to punish the gathering of evil," Kim said. It wasn't immediately clear who he was referring to.

Kim offers Putin full support. What about an arms deal?

Russian news agency RIA Novosti said that after the talks with Putin concluded North Korea's reclusive leader boarded his luxury armored train for the long journey back to Pyongyang. On his way home he is expected to make two more stops in Russian cities to tour factories that make civilian and military equipment.

If an arms deal was made, it was kept secret.

North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest military, with more than 1.2 million personnel, according to the Council on Foreign Relations think thank. Analysts believe it possesses a stockpile of bullets and artillery shells, as well as chemical and biological weapons. It has successfully tested nuclear-armed missiles capable of striking the U.S.

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As the war in Ukraine grinds on, Russia needs to replenish its ammunition.

"I think it says a lot that Russia is having to turn to a country like North Korea to seek to bolster its defense capacity in a war that it expected would be over in a week, that in September of 2023 it is going to North Korea to get munitions to try to continue to grind out on the battlefield in Ukraine," U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said at a White House briefing last week.

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