1 of 6 | North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to North Korea, state media reported Thursday. Photo by Kremlin Pool/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un invited Russian President Vladimir Putin for a visit to his isolated country, state media reported Thursday, as the North Korean leader's tour of Russia continued amid speculation over a pending arms deal.
Kim extended the offer during a meeting with Putin on Wednesday at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a rocket launch facility in far eastern Siberia, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.
"At the end of the reception, Kim Jong Un courteously invited Putin to visit the DPRK at a convenient time," KCNA reported.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
"Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship," the report added.
However, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that a reciprocal visit was "not on the agenda yet," according to state news agency TASS.
Kim continued his trip in Russia on Thursday, TASS reported, heading by armored train to the city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur for a planned tour of military and civilian aircraft plants. He is scheduled to continue on to the port city of Vladivostok to inspect Russia's Pacific Fleet.
The White House expressed concern Wednesday over a "budding arms deal" between Pyongyang and Moscow, citing intelligence that Kim would likely help supply Putin with weapons for its war in Ukraine.
"We obviously have concerns about any burgeoning defense relationship between North Korea and Russia," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said at a press briefing in Washington. "No nation on the planet -- nobody -- should be helping Mr. Putin kill innocent Ukrainians."
Kirby said it was "entirely likely that Mr. Putin was at the very least going to seek artillery."
"We expect it could be other types of munitions, but we just don't have perfect visibility on that," he added.
Kim, meanwhile, is reportedly seeking advanced technology for the North's space and missile programs.
"The leader of the DPRK shows great interest in rocket technology," Putin told reporters at the Vostochny Cosmodrome on Wednesday. "They are also trying to develop space."
North Korea made a pair of failed attempts to place a military spy satellite in orbit in May and August, and has vowed another launch in October.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that Washington was looking to "impose costs and consequences" for any weapons deal between Pyongyang and Moscow.
"We don't want to see Russia be in a position where it can strengthen the capabilities it's bringing to dealing with the aggression on Ukraine, and we also don't want to see North Korea benefitting from whatever technologies it might get from Russia," Blinken said during an interview on the Pod Save the World podcast.
"We're working with other countries; we're taking our own actions to try to disrupt as much of that as we possibly can," he said.
South Korea also warned Thursday that Putin and Kim appeared to be pursuing "some kind of military deal."
"We once again urge Russia and North Korea to stop engaging in illegal and reckless acts that bring about their own isolation and regression and to comply with international norms such as U.N. Security Council resolutions," Unification Minister Kim Yung-ho told reporters.
Moscow and Pyongyang have drawn closer amid a growing geopolitical divide sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. In July, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang, where he toured a weapons expo and viewed a military parade, sparking concerns of a potential arms sale.
Russia, along with China, has repeatedly blocked U.S.-led efforts at the United Nations Security Council to take action against North Korea over a flurry of weapons tests, including its launch of a Hwasong-18 intercontinental ballistic missile in July.
Pyongyang fired a pair of short-range ballistic missiles into the sea on Wednesday, while the North Korean leader vowed at his meeting with Putin that he will "always be standing with Russia"
Kim added that the "Russian military and its people will inherit the shining tradition of victory," in an apparent show of support for Moscow's Ukraine invasion.