Putin and Kim seen laughing in Russian-made limousine after inking mutual defense pact

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un were seen laughing as they took turns to drive each other around in a Russian-built limousine during Putin’s first visit to Pyongyang in 24 years.

In footage released by North Korean state media agency KCNA on Thursday, the two autocrats appear to enjoy each other’s company as they take a jaunt in the Aurus luxury car. The carefully-choreographed moment shows Putin taking a turn in the driving seat first while Kim sits in the passenger seat, before the two swap places.

The images are designed to highlight the close bond between the leaders, who say they have ramped up ties to a “new level” during the Russian president’s rare visit to the reclusive state this week.

North Korea and Russia inked a new defense pact during the visit, pledging to use all available means to provide immediate military assistance in the event the other is attacked.

The pact, which comes against the backdrop of Putin’s grinding war against Ukraine, is the most significant agreement signed by Russia and North Korea in decades and is seen as something of a revival of their 1961 Cold War-era mutual defense pledge. It also consolidates the Kim regime’s powerful link with a world power that wields a veto on the UN Security Council.

On Wednesday, Putin presented Kim with an Aurus car as the pair exchanged gifts, according to Russian state media – the second time the Kremlin leader has given his counterpart this car model. According to Putin’s aide Yuri Ushakov, the Russian leader also presented Kim with a tea set.

The two autocrats appeared to enjoy each other’s company as they took a jaunt in the Aurus luxury car. - KCNA/AP
The two autocrats appeared to enjoy each other’s company as they took a jaunt in the Aurus luxury car. - KCNA/AP

Footage from KCNA showed Putin in return receiving a pair of native Pungsan hunting dogs – the same breed Kim gifted to former South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018 during a breakthrough in the two countries’ relations.

Putin’s trip has been a very public display of the strong relations between Russia and North Korea, whose alignment has deepened in the face of shared animosity toward the West.

The Russian leader landed in North Korea in the early hours of Wednesday morning local time, exactly 24 years to the day that he was last in Pyongyang, amid international concerns over the two countries’ military cooperation.

During the visit, the two leaders announced a new strategic partnership driven by Moscow’s need for weapons in its war in Ukraine.

Putin gave Kim an Aurus when the two leaders exchanged gifts, according to Russian state media – the second time Putin has given his counterpart this car model. - KCNA/Reuters
Putin gave Kim an Aurus when the two leaders exchanged gifts, according to Russian state media – the second time Putin has given his counterpart this car model. - KCNA/Reuters

In remarks ahead of talks between the two, Kim voiced his “full support and solidarity with the struggles of the Russian government, military and the people,” pointing specifically to Moscow’s war in Ukraine “to protect its own sovereignty, safety and territorial stability.”

Putin, for his part, hailed the countries’ ties as based on “equality and mutual respect.”

The burgeoning relationship has sparked concern in both Seoul and Washington, not only over North Korea’s arms transfers to Russia, but also the prospect of Moscow transferring its superior military technology to aid Pyongyang’s heavily sanctioned weapons program.

After his visit to North Korea, Putin landed in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi as he continues his attempts to boost economic ties with friendly countries amid Western isolation.

CNN’s Simone McCarthy and Anna Chernova contributed reporting.

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