Shoigu and Lt. Gen. Sergei Kobylash, commander of the Russian long-range bomber force, explained to Kim that the Tu-160 had recently received new cruise missiles with a range of more than 4,040 miles. Pointing to the weapons bay, Shoigu said each bomber carries 12 missiles.
Russian officials have previously said the new missile was in development and the latest comments confirmed its deployment for the first time.
Shoigu, who had met Kim during a rare visit to North Korea in July, also showed Kim another of the latest Russian missiles, the Kinzhal hypersonic, carried by the MiG-31 fighter jet, which took part in its first combat during the war in Ukraine, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Later, Kim and Shoigu traveled to Vladivostok, where they inspected the Admiral Shaposhnikov frigate. Russian navy commander Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov briefed Kim on the ship’s capabilities and weapons, which include long-range Kalibr cruise missiles that Russian warships have regularly fired at targets in Ukraine.
Kim’s visits to military and technology sites this week are likely to hint at what he wants from Russia, perhaps in exchange for supplying ammunition to replenish Putin’s dwindling reserves as his invasion of Ukraine turns into a protracted war of attrition.
Kim’s trip to Russia, which included more than four hours of talks with Putin on Wednesday, comes amid a boost in military cooperation between countries where North Korea could potentially seek Russian technologies to advance programs. Kim’s nuclear, missile and other military programs in exchange for providing Russia with much-needed munitions.
Videos released by Russia’s Defense Ministry showed Shoigu greeting Kim at the airport along with honor guards lined up near a red carpet. Kim was seen looking at the Kinzhal missile, gesticulating and asking questions about the fighter jets’ capabilities while discussing technical details with Shoigu and other military officials through translators.
Kim was also seen talking to Shoigu and Yevmenov about a suspected nuclear attack submarine the North unveiled last week as they exited the Shaposhnikov frigate.
The visit follows Kim’s visit on Friday to a factory that produces advanced Russian fighter jets.
In recent months, Kim has emphasized the need to strengthen his navy to counter the advanced naval assets of the United States, which has been expanding its combined military exercises with South Korea to counter the growing threat from the North.
Analysts say Kim’s focus on naval strength could be driven by ambitions to obtain sophisticated technologies for ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as starting joint naval exercises between Russia and North Korea.
After meeting Putin at Russia’s main spaceport, a location that signaled Kim’s desire for Russian help in his efforts to acquire space reconnaissance assets and missile technologies, the North Korean leader reappeared on Friday at the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in the far east, for a meeting. He visits a plant that produces the Russian Su-57 fighter jets.
Experts have said possible military cooperation between the countries could include efforts to modernize North Korea’s aging air force, which relies on fighter jets shipped from the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Kim’s trip to Russia, his first since April 2019, when he met Putin in Vladivostok, came days after he attended a ceremony at a North Korean military shipyard where the country unveiled the suspected nuclear attack submarine.
State media claimed it is capable of launching tactical nuclear weapons from water. But the South Korean military expressed doubts about the operational capabilities of the submarine, which was the result of retrofitting an existing submarine to install missile launch tubes.
Kim has also announced goals to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, which can silently travel long distances and approach enemy coasts for strikes, a key asset in his efforts to build a viable nuclear arsenal that can threaten the United States. Analysts say such capabilities would be unviable for the North without outside help.
Putin reiterated on Friday that Russia would comply with U.N. sanctions, some of which prohibit North Korea from exporting or importing weapons. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said separately that no bilateral military cooperation agreements were signed after Wednesday’s Putin-Kim meeting.
Experts say North Korea and Russia are unlikely to release any arms deal to avoid stronger international criticism.
Kim, whose visit to Russia is his first trip abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic, has been eager to raise the visibility of his partnerships with Moscow and Beijing as he tries to break international isolation and insert Pyongyang into a united front against Washington. . . Some South Korean experts say Kim could also try to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In another sign of the North’s post-pandemic openness, KCNA said Saturday that a team of North Korean athletes left Pyongyang to participate in the Asian Games set to begin next week in Hangzhou, China. The South Korean government says around 190 North Korean athletes are registered for the event.
Since last year, the United States has accused North Korea of providing munitions, artillery shells and rockets to Russia, many of them likely copies of Soviet-era munitions. South Korean officials said North Korean weapons provided to Russia have already been used in Ukraine.