Vladimir Putin sent a letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un calling for closer ties between the two countries, Pyongyang's state media reported on Monday. File Photo by KCNA/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, Aug. 15 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that the two countries will "continue to expand" ties, the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Monday.
Putin made the comments in a letter to Kim on the occasion of North Korea's Liberation Day holiday, which commemorates the defeat of Japan in World War II and the end of Tokyo's colonial rule of Korea.
The two countries, both of which are under punishing international sanctions, "would continue to expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts," Putin said in his letter, according to KCNA.
Putin added that the closer bond "would entirely conform with the interests of the peoples of the two countries and contribute to strengthening the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the whole of the Northeastern Asian region."
The North Korean leader responded with a letter of his own, saying that relations "based on comradely friendship and militant unity would grow stronger in all fields," KCNA said.
Kim wished Putin "big success in his responsible work for defending the sovereignty and interests of the country and people and achieving the prosperity of the country."
North Korea has publicly expressed its support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine, issuing statements blaming NATO expansion and America's "hegemonic policy" for causing the crisis.
Last month, North Korea officially recognized the pro-Russian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine, becoming only the second country outside of Russia to do so.
Kiev responded by severing diplomatic ties with Pyongyang.
Kim added that relations between Moscow and Pyongyang have already been "put on a new high stage in the common front for frustrating the hostile forces' military threat and provocation."
He did not specify who the "hostile forces" are, but North Korea frequently uses the term to describe the United States and South Korea. The regime has amped up its bellicose rhetoric against both in recent weeks.
In late July, Kim suggested that he was prepared to use his country's nuclear arsenal in a military clash with the United States and threatened to "annihilate" South Korea. Last week, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of the leader, repeated accusations that Seoul had been the source of a COVID-19 outbreak in the North and warned that Pyongyang would respond by "not only exterminating the virus but also wiping out the [S]outh Korean authorities."
Pyongyang has conducted 18 rounds of weapons tests in 2022, including its first launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles in almost five years. Washington and Seoul have assessed that North Korea is fully prepared to conduct its seventh nuclear test at any time.
For its part, Russia joined China in vetoing a U.S.-led U.N. Security Council resolution to impose additional sanctions on North Korea in May, highlighting a growing geopolitical divide.