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Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang for a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday, as the two countries attempt to deepen relations amid sanctions and escalating confrontations with the West, the Associated Press reported.

Wednesday’s visit marks Putin’s first trip to North Korea in 24 years.

Before his arrival, the Russian president praised North Korea’s support for his war in Ukraine and vowed to cooperate closely against US-led sanctions, according to a North Korean state media op-ed.

Putin also highlighted plans to develop trade systems free from Western control and to jointly oppose what he termed “illegal” sanctions imposed by the US and the European Union.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a number of issues, including economic assistance and technology transfers to bolster North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, in exchange for munitions to support Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Despite denials from both Pyongyang and Moscow, US and South Korean officials have accused North Korea of supplying Russia with military equipment – this would violate numerous United Nations Security Council sanctions that Russia itself previously approved.

The deepening military and economic exchanges have alarmed American and South Korean officials, who are monitoring potential impacts on the Korean Peninsula’s security.

Washington and Seoul officials expressed particular concerns about North Korean ballistic missiles being used against Ukrainian targets.

They also warned about the potential repercussions the Moscow-Pyongyang partnership could have on the Peninsula: Tensions in the region have flared in recent years, with intensified weapons tests by North Korea and increased military exercises by the US, South Korea and Japan.

Putin’s trip comes days after a Russian nuclear-powered submarine and other naval vessels departed Cuba following a five-day visit to the Caribbean island off the coast of Florida, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Kazan, a nuclear-powered sub reportedly not carrying nuclear weapons, docked in Havana last week. Around the same time, a US fast-attack submarine and a Canadian Navy patrol ship made port visits to the region.

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