Putin hails N Korea's support for Ukraine war ahead of Pyongyang visit

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday hailed North Korea for "firmly supporting" Moscow's war in Ukraine ahead of a visit to Pyongyang set to boost defense ties between the two nuclear-armed countries.

Historic allies since North Korea's founding after World War II, Moscow and Pyongyang have drawn closer after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, with Putin increasingly isolated internationally and looking for friends.

North Korea's Kim Jong Un made a rare overseas trip on his bulletproof train last September to meet Putin at a Russian spaceport, with Seoul subsequently claiming Pyongyang was shipping arms to Moscow for use in Ukraine, in exchange for Russian satellite know-how.

Putin's trip has triggered "concern" in Washington, after the Pentagon said last month debris analysis proved North Korean ballistic missiles were already being fired on Ukraine's battlefields.

"We highly appreciate that the DPRK is firmly supporting the special military operations of Russia being conducted in Ukraine," Putin wrote in an article carried by the official Korean Central News Agency, referring to the North by its official name.

Russia and the North are "now actively developing the many-sided partnership," Putin wrote ahead of his arrival later Tuesday in the North, for his first visit since 2000 when he met then-leader Kim Jong Il — Kim Jong Un's late father.

The trip will elevate ties to a "higher level" the Russian leader wrote, adding it would help develop "equal cooperation" between the two allies.

Both countries are under rafts on U.N. sanctions, Pyongyang since 2006 over banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and Moscow over the invasion of Ukraine.

Putin praised the North for "defending their...

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