Russia and China, two of North Korea's closest partners, could be competing to offer fighter jets, according to a Russian news service. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Russia and China could be competing to offer new fighter jets to North Korea, according to a Russian press report.
Avia Pro, a Russian aviation news service, reported Wednesday Russia's plan to export new MiG-35 multirole fighters to the North is being challenged by China. Chinese-developed fighter jets are cheaper, according to the report.
According to Avia Pro, North Korea is expected to "modernize" its fleet of air force fighters on a major scale. Russia has taken an interest in North Korean plans. The MiG-35 is a Russian "4.5-generation" fighter introduced in 2019 and comes with new precision-guided targeting capability and an optical locator system.
The MiG-35 began test flights in 2017 and is an improvement from existing MiG-29M and MiG-29K models. The capabilities are not as advanced as the United States' fifth-generation aircraft F-35 Lightning II or Russia's Sukhoi Su-57, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Russia's Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un first met in 2019 in Vladivostok, when Putin suggested to Kim that U.S. security guarantees may not be enough for North Korea. Russia has also donated food to the North.
China remains North Korea's biggest trading partner. Beijing is offering a 4.5-generation fighter, the J-10C, at a lower price than the MiG-35, according to Avia Pro.
Beijing's cooperation with North Korea behind the scenes could be drawing the attention of the Trump administration. On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Treasury sanctioned several China-based entities in connection to North Korean coal sales, after The Wall Street Journal reported Chinese-flagged ships were defying international sanctions.
China's foreign ministry said Wednesday the country has been complying with United Nations Security Council resolutions and referred to the new U.S. sanctions as "unilateral."
Chinese spokesman Zhao Lijian also condemned U.S. sanctions against 14 members of the National People's Congress' Standing Committee.
"China will take resolute and forceful countermeasures," Zhao said.