South Korea and US hold emergency call over Putin’s likely visit to North Korea

American and South Korean officials have expressed concern over Russian president Vladimir Putin’s potential visit to North Korea.

In an emergency phone call, South Korea’s vice foreign minister Kim Hong-kyun and US deputy secretary of state Kurt Campbell agreed to closely monitor developments and respond to any North Korean provocation and regional tensions.

“The two sides agreed to resolutely respond through airtight cooperation to North Korea’s provocations against South Korea and actions that escalate tensions in the region,” South Korea’s foreign ministry said.

Speculation about Mr Putin’s visit started after Russian newspaperVedomosti reported on Monday that he was visiting North Korea and Vietnam in the coming weeks.

The Kremlin has not confirmed the visit.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia aims to maintain and develop good relations with North Korea, describing it as a friendly country. “We have the right to develop good relations with our neighbours and this should not cause concern for anyone,” Mr Peskov said.

Mr Putin met North Korean leader Mr Kim Jong-un in eastern Russia last September and agreed to strengthen their cooperation, including in military matters.

The US has accused North Korea of supplying missiles and artillery shells to Russia for use in the Ukraine war, a claim that both countries reject. American officials are concerned about what Russia may be giving Pyongyang in return.

“Hard currency? Is it energy? Is it capabilities that allow them to advance their nuclear or missile products? We don’t know. But we’re concerned by that and watching carefully,” Mr Campbell said.

The Ukraine war has seen abundant use of weapons supplied by foreign countries. While Russia has reportedly deployed hardware from North Korea and Iran, Kyiv has been relying more and more on weapons systems and strategic support from the US and its Nato allies.