Tuesday Briefing: Kim and Putin Plan to Meet in Russia

Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, plans to travel to Russia this month to meet with its president, Vladimir Putin, to discuss military cooperation, including the possibility of supplying Russia with more weaponry for its war in Ukraine, according to U.S. and allied officials.

Putin wants Kim to send Russia artillery shells and antitank missiles, and Kim would like Russia to provide North Korea with advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, the officials said. Kim is also seeking food aid for his impoverished nation.

The White House warned last week that Putin and Kim had exchanged letters discussing a possible arms deal. But the new information about a planned meeting between them goes far beyond the previous warning. The intelligence relating to the plans has not been declassified by the U.S., and the officials describing the plans were not authorized to discuss them and declined to provide details on how spy agencies had collected the information.

Agenda: Putin and Kim would attend the Eastern Economic Forum, which is scheduled to run Sept. 10 to 13 in Vladivostok, according to officials. Kim also plans to visit Pier 33, where naval ships from Russia’s Pacific fleet dock, they said.

Kim’s travel: The trip would be a rare foray for Kim from his country. He would travel from Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, probably by armored train, to Vladivostok, on the eastern coast of Russia, the officials said. Kim could possibly go to Moscow, though that is not certain.

Context: The U.S. first warned about cooperation between North Korea and Russia a year ago and later said that North Korea had shipped munitions to Russia through the Middle East and North Africa. But U.S. officials said that the disclosures had deterred North Korea and that few if any North Korean weapons had reached the front lines in Ukraine.

Other news from the war in Ukraine:

  • Putin restated his opposition yesterday to the internationally backed Black Sea grain deal after bilateral talks with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who brokered the deal.

  • Russia fired swarms of drones at Ukrainian grain and port facilities yesterday morning, the second large-scale drone assault in the past 48 hours in the southern Odesa region.

  • The removal of Ukraine’s defense minister and the arrest of Ihor Kolomoisky, one of the country’s richest men, are signs of the authorities’ drive to root out corruption — an enduring challenge and a rare area of criticism of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s leadership.

China indicated yesterday that its top leader, Xi Jinping, would skip the Group of 20 summit meeting in New Delhi this weekend, dealing a blow to India, the event’s host nation, and raising questions about Xi’s profile as a global statesman.

At a news briefing, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry said that China would send the premier, Li Qiang, to the event, but she declined to explain why. The move is an unusual one: Xi has never missed a G20 summit, which brings together 19 countries and the European Union, since taking power in 2012.

Context: The announcement comes amid growing friction between China and several members of the G20 — particularly with the U.S. over Beijing’s support for Russia, and with India over its increasingly aggressive territorial claims.

Pope Francis on China: After a four-day trip to Mongolia, Pope Francis called relations with Beijing “very respectful.” However, few clergy or Catholics from China went to see him during his visit, seemingly fearing reprisals.

For the past three years, as dozens of major property developers in China defaulted after years of excessive borrowing, Country Garden was an outlier. But last month, the real estate giant missed two interest payments — signaling that it, too, was at risk of financial collapse, with $187 billion in debt.

Country Garden must now come up with $22.5 million this week, the end of a grace period for the missed payments. The company is scrambling to raise cash and keep creditors at bay, selling off stakes in properties and issuing shares at a discount.

Context: Country Garden’s fall has been dramatic. The company’s improbable rise from a regional homebuilder tracked China’s own meteoric ascent. The developer’s collapse reflects the speed and severity of the country’s real estate meltdown, which threatens to derail the broader economy.

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, many industries across the world shifted to remote or hybrid work. But whether a person is more likely to work in an office or on the couch depends on where they live.

Since a group of generals toppled the democratically elected president in July, Niger has witnessed a revival of music videos praising the military, remixed for the TikTok era.

In one video a famous trio of female artists dressed in fatigues lauds soldiers who they say are as fast as antelopes. In another, pickup trucks race through the desert to intercept suspected criminals.

Artists and entertainment executives say such music and videos make sense in a country with a long history of griot culture, where storytellers and keepers of oral history praised figures of authority. The outpouring sheds light on why many in Niger have in part welcomed the end of democratic rule that they associated with endemic corruption, economic hardship and limited freedom of expression.

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