Russia hosts North Korea's top diplomat for talks on ties amid concerns over alleged arms deal

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Russian President Vladimir Putin greets North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (Artyom Geodakyan, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Tuesday hosted North Korea's Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui for talks on expanding ties between the countries amid international concerns over an alleged arms cooperation deal between Pyongyang and Moscow.

Lavrov met with Choe earlier in the day, saying at the start of the meeting that they would discuss “active work” on implementing the agreements reached by the countries' leaders.

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un traveled to Russia in September to meet Putin and visit several military sites, sparking concerns about an arms alliance that would help Moscow replenish its arsenals during the fighting in Ukraine.

Putin met with Choe and Lavrov later in the day, the Russian president's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, adding that the foreign ministers informed Putin about agreements they reached. Peskov didn't go into details about the agreements.

Earlier on Tuesday, Peskov said that the Russian president will visit North Korea on Kim’s invitation “at a convenient time" and based "on mutual agreement.”

Lavrov noted that Moscow "highly appreciates" Pyongyang's support for Russia's military action in Ukraine, and mentioned “close and fruitful cooperation” between the countries at the United Nations and other international organizations.

“We will take every effort to develop our relations,” Choe said.

The United States and South Korea have accused North Korea of providing artillery munitions and missiles for Russia to use in Ukraine. Earlier this month, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Russia already had used ballistic missiles provided by North Korea to strike Ukraine.

Both Russia and North Korea have dismissed accusations of North Korean arms transfers to Russia.

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