A special train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong-un appears to have departed for Russia, South Korean government officials said Monday, amid concerns that Pyongyang and Moscow could advance arms negotiations.
"The intelligence authorities believe the train presumed to be carrying Kim Jong-un is moving to Vladivostok," the official told Yonhap News Agency.
Another senior official confirmed that Kim appears to have departed Pyongyang and is headed to Russia.
Still, there has been no word from Pyongyang or Moscow on Kim's possible trip to Russia. If the train is confirmed to have headed for Russia's far eastern city of Vladivostok, the trip is expected to take 20 hours or more.
The New York Times has reported that Kim plans to travel to Vladivostok, possibly by armored train this month, for talks with Putin about the possibility of supplying Russia with more weaponry for its war in Ukraine and other military cooperation.
Earlier in the day, Russia's Interfax news agency reported that Kim is likely to visit Russia's Far East "in the coming days," citing multiple regional sources.
South Korea's defense ministry also said Monday it sees the "possibility" of a summit between Kim and Putin.
The assessment came amid media reports that Kim and Putin could hold a summit on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok, which kicked off Sunday for a four-day run.
Russian media outlet RTVI, however, said the two leaders are not expected to meet during the EEF.
"There are no plans for talks between President Putin and Chairman Kim Jong-un at the EEF," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by the outlet.
Peskov neither confirmed nor denied Kim's trip to Russia, according to the RTVI.
If confirmed, the trip would mark the first such visit to Russia by Kim in nearly 4 1/2 years and his first trip abroad since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pyongyang has recently been seeking to bolster military ties with Moscow in the wake of growing security cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan.
Source: Yonhap News Agency