A rare meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin has been met with warnings from Western nations who suspect an arms deal may be imminent.

The United States and the United Kingdom have expressed concerns that Kim could provide weapons and ammunition to Russia, which has expended vast stocks in more than 18 months of war in Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied such intentions.

The US Department of State said on Wednesday that US President Joe Biden’s administration “won’t hesitate” to impose more sanctions on Russia and North Korea if they conclude any new arms deals.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller issued the warning at a briefing in response to questions about the meeting in Russia between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“We have taken a number of actions already to sanction entities that brokered arms sales between North Korea and Russia and we won’t hesitate to impose additional actions if appropriate,” Miller said.

It was troubling that Russia and North Korea are discussing increased cooperation that could violate UN Security Council resolutions, he said.

“When you see what looks to be increased cooperation and probably military transfers, that is quite troubling and would potentially be in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions,” Miller said.

James O’Brien, head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination, told The Associated Press news agency such a deal would trigger a US attempt to identify the individuals involved and the financial mechanisms they used to “at least limit their ability to be effective”.

“Russia is scraping the bottom of the barrel looking for help because it’s having trouble sustaining its military,” he said. “Russia is now overtly engaging with a country that the UN has sanctioned. And that’s very problematic for Russia’s global position.”

During the meeting, which lasted more than four hours at Russia’s spaceport in the Far East, Putin showed Kim around Russia’s most advanced space rocket launch site in the region, and discussed the possibility of sending a North Korean cosmonaut into space.

Kim, who arrived by train from North Korea, asked detailed questions about rockets as the two leaders toured the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

When asked by Russian media, who were given significant access at the summit, if Russia would help Kim build satellites, Putin said, “That’s why we came here.”

Across the Atlantic, the United Kingdom also urged North Korea to end arms talks with Russia and said Kim’s visit showed how isolated Moscow has become on the world stage.

“We urge the DPRK to cease its arms negotiations with Russia and to abide by public commitments Pyongyang has made not to sell arms to Russia,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson told reporters.

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