Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Putin Gets Lavish Welcome in North Korea, Signs Partnership Pact with Kim 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2-R) attend an official welcoming ceremony during their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, 19 June 2024. (EPA/ Gavriil Grigorov / Sputnik / Kremlin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2-R) attend an official welcoming ceremony during their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, 19 June 2024. (EPA/ Gavriil Grigorov / Sputnik / Kremlin)
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Putin Gets Lavish Welcome in North Korea, Signs Partnership Pact with Kim 

Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2-R) attend an official welcoming ceremony during their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, 19 June 2024. (EPA/ Gavriil Grigorov / Sputnik / Kremlin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (2-R) attend an official welcoming ceremony during their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, 19 June 2024. (EPA/ Gavriil Grigorov / Sputnik / Kremlin)

Cheering crowds and lavish ceremonies greeted Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang on Wednesday, where he and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed an agreement upgrading their countries' ties to a "comprehensive strategic partnership". 

Kim expressed "unconditional support" for "all of Russia's policies", including "a full support and firm alliance" for Putin's war with Ukraine at a summit with the Russian leader who was making his first visit to the North in 24 years. 

Putin's visit, which likely to reshape decades of Russia-North Korea relations at a time when both face international isolation is being watched closely by Seoul and Washington, which have expressed concern about their growing military ties. 

The reaction from China, the North's main political and economic benefactor and an increasingly important ally for Moscow, has been muted. 

An honor guard including mounted soldiers, and a large crowd of civilians gathered at the Kim Il Sung Square by the Taedong River running through the capital in a grand welcome ceremony for Putin. The scene included children holding balloons and giant portraits of the two leaders with national flags adorning the square's main building. 

Kim and Putin then rode to the Kumsusan Palace for summit talks. 

"We highly appreciate your consistent and unwavering support for Russian policy, including in the Ukrainian direction," Russian state news agency RIA quoted Putin as saying at the start of the talks. 

Putin said Moscow was fighting the hegemonic, imperialist policy of the United States and its allies, Russian media reported. 

Kim said North Korea-Russia relations were entering a period of "new high prosperity". 

'UNCONDITIONAL AND UNWAVERING SUPPORT' 

Following a summit with top aides then a one-on-one talks that lasted two hours, Putin and Kim signed a comprehensive strategic partnership pact, Russian media reported. Putin's foreign policy aide has said the pact would be the basis for a broader cooperation between the two countries. 

Earlier, Kim said the increasingly complicated security environment around the world called for a stronger strategic dialogue with Russia. 

"And I want to reaffirm that we will unconditionally and unwaveringly support all of Russia's policies," Kim told Putin. 

North Korea "expresses full support and solidarity to the Russian government, army and people in carrying out a special military operation in Ukraine to protect sovereignty, security interests, as well as territorial integrity", he said. 

Russia was hit with US-led Western sanctions after Putin launched a full-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022 in what Moscow called a "special military operation". 

Putin arrived at Pyongyang's airport earlier in the day. After Kim welcomed him with an embrace, the two shared "pent-up inmost thoughts" on the ride to the state guest house, North Korean state media said. 

The countries' partnership was an "engine for accelerating the building of a new multi-polar world" and Putin's visit demonstrated the invincibility and durability of their friendship and unity, North Korea's state news agency KCNA said. 

Russia has used its warming ties with North Korea to needle Washington, while heavily sanctioned North Korea has won political backing and promises of economic support and trade from Moscow. 

The United States and its allies say they fear Russia could provide aid for North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions, and have accused Pyongyang of providing ballistic missiles and artillery shells that Russia has used in its war in Ukraine. 

Moscow and Pyongyang have denied weapons transfers. 

'ALTERNATE TRADE MECHANISM' 

After Putin's arrival in Pyongyang was delayed by hours, he emerged from his plane at a pre-dawn hour and was greeted by Kim on the red carpet alone, without the grand ceremony the North put on for Chinese President Xi Jinping on his 2019 visit. 

The pair then rode in Putin's Russian-made Aurus limousine to the Kumsusan State Guest House. 

State media photos showed streets of Pyongyang lined with portraits of Putin and the facade of the unfinished and vacant 101-story pyramid-shaped Ryugyong Hotel brightly lit with a giant message "Welcome Putin". 

Wednesday's agenda includes a gala concert, state reception, honor guards, document signings and a statement to the media. 

In a signal that Russia, a veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council, is reassessing its approach to North Korea, Putin praised Pyongyang ahead of his arrival for resisting what he said was US economic pressure, blackmail and threats. 

In an article for North Korea's official ruling party newspaper, he promised to "develop alternative trade and mutual settlement mechanisms not controlled by the West" and "build an equal and indivisible security architecture in Eurasia". 

Putin's article implied that there was an opportunity for North Korea’s economic growth within an anti-West economic bloc led by Russia, a message likely to appeal to Kim Jong Un, wrote Rachel Minyoung Lee, an analyst with the 38 North program in Washington. 



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Russia Says Reports it Planned to Kill Head of German Arms Firm Are 'Fake'

FILED - 25 June 2024, Berlin: Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG, is taking part in the Day of German Industry 2024 organized by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa
FILED - 25 June 2024, Berlin: Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG, is taking part in the Day of German Industry 2024 organized by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa
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Russia Says Reports it Planned to Kill Head of German Arms Firm Are 'Fake'

FILED - 25 June 2024, Berlin: Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG, is taking part in the Day of German Industry 2024 organized by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa
FILED - 25 June 2024, Berlin: Armin Papperger, CEO of Rheinmetall AG, is taking part in the Day of German Industry 2024 organized by the Federation of German Industries (BDI). Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

Media reports that Russia planned to assassinate the chief executive of German arms manufacturer Rheinmetall are based on "fake" information from anonymous sources, the Kremlin said on Friday.
CNN and the New York Times on Thursday reported that US intelligence had discovered that Russia had plans to assassinate Armin Papperger, the CEO of Rheinmetall, which has been producing artillery shells and military vehicles for Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the reports came from anonymous sources, did not contain "serious documentation" and so could not be taken seriously.

Rheinmetall said in a statement on Thursday that "necessary measures are always taken" in regular consultation with security authorities.

Rheinmetall, one of the world's biggest producers of artillery and tank shells, began ramping up production after Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

In May 2023, it said it had set up a joint venture with Ukrainian state-owned conglomerate Ukroboronprom to build and repair tanks in Ukraine.

Russia's former President Dmitry Medvedev, a close ally of current President Vladimir Putin, said Russia would retaliate by hitting any facility Rheinmetall set up in Ukraine.
In February, Rheinmetall announced that it also planned to open an ammunition factory in Ukraine.