North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has returned to Pyongyang, state media said Wednesday, receiving an “ardent” welcome home to the capital after wrapping up a week-long Russia tour.
Kim’s tour of Russia’s far east included a summit with President Vladimir Putin, which fanned Western fears that isolated, nuclear-armed Pyongyang could provide Moscow with weapons for its drawn-out invasion of Ukraine.
North Korea’s leader inspected everything from Russian space rockets to submarines during the trip.
His visit also included a symbolic exchange of rifles with Putin, with Kim declaring that bilateral ties with Russia were his “number one priority”.
Although Moscow and Pyongyang are historic allies, with ties dating back to the Korean War, Beijing has long been the North’s largest trading partner and most important benefactor.
Kim returned to Pyongyang on his armoured train on Tuesday evening “in good health after conducting the immortal external revolutionary activities, to be recorded forever in the history of development of the DPRK-Russia friendship”, the official Korean Central News Agency said, referring to the North by its official name.
At the train station to greet Kim were North Korean senior officials and citizens who had “earnestly waited for the day he would return home in good health”.
As Kim’s train arrived, it was greeted with “cheers of Hurrah!”, KCNA said.
Kim waved and reviewed a military guard of honour, it said.
North Korea’s official Korean Central TV aired a new documentary on Wednesday, featuring highlights from Kim’s visit to Russia and summit with the Russian leader.
The 90-minute film was titled “An Incident that Led to a New Milestone for the Development of North Korea-Russia Relations”.
The documentary showcased Kim’s visits to Russia’s Knevichi airfield and the Yuri Gagarin Aviation Plant, which is known for producing advanced fighter jets, as well as his meeting with Putin.
North Korea and Russia are both under rafts of global sanctions — Moscow for its Ukraine invasion, Pyongyang for its nuclear weapon tests.
Russia is eager for North Korea’s stockpile of artillery shells to be used in Ukraine, while Pyongyang is looking for help with satellite technology and upgrading its Soviet-era military equipment, experts say.
Kim spent a total of 10 days on his trip to Russia, including travel time, Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency reported, adding that it was his longest overseas trip since taking office in late 2011.