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North Korea’s Kim Tours Russian Fighter Jet Plant

Kim Jong Un visits an aircraft manufacturing plant. TASS

Updated with Kremlin's "no agreements" remarks.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected Russia’s fighter jets Friday as part of his wide-ranging visit to Russia's Far East amid Western concerns about military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang. 

Two days after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin and touring the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Kim traveled to the industrial city of Komsomolsk-on-Amure to visit a military aircraft production facility and a civil aviation plant.

“Kim was shown the engineering center and production workshops of the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant and the production center of the Yakovlev plant, both branches of the United Aircraft Corporation,” Russia’s government said in a statement.

The Gagarin plant, which is under U.S. sanctions, gave the North Korean leader a tour of Su-35 and Su-57 fighter jet assembly workshops. A Su-35 performed a demonstration flight afterward.

Russian state media later shared footage of Kim’s Maybach luxury car being parked inside his armored train for the next leg of his journey.

“We see the potential for cooperation both in aircraft construction and other industries,” said Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov, who accompanied Kim on the tour.

“This is especially relevant for achieving our countries’ objectives of technological sovereignty,” Manturov added.

Both countries are under heavy Western sanctions, while Russia is facing unprecedented isolation from the West over its nearly 19-month war in Ukraine.

Kim's visit has sparked widespread concern over illicit arms agreements amid Putin’s efforts to boost Soviet-era alliances. 

The Kremlin on Friday claimed no agreements have been signed during the North Korean leader's ongoing visit.

"No agreements were signed and there was no plan to sign any," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Mikhail Degtyarev, the governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk region where Komsomolsk-on-Amure is the second-largest city, drew parallels between the two countries’ Soviet past and current tensions with the West.

“Our fathers and grandfathers fought Japanese militarism together, our country supported North Korea against U.S. imperial ambitions in the 1950s, and today we stand together against the pressures of the collective West,” Degtyarev said.

Kim was accompanied by a military-heavy entourage, while top Russian military officials were also involved in the summit between the North Korean leader and Putin on Wednesday.

Kim is also expected to visit the Far East port of Vladivostok to oversee a display of Russian warships.

This week, the Kremlin confirmed that Putin will travel to North Korea after having received an invitation from Kim.

Peskov said Moscow will "quickly prepare" to send Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Pyongyang — with his trip expected in October — before arranging a Putin visit.

After Wednesday's summit, Putin told reporters that he saw "possibilities" for military cooperation with North Korea. 

AFP contributed reporting.

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