Kim returns to Pyongyang after 'immortal' Russia trip

This picture taken on 19 September, 2023 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on 20 September, 2023 shows North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) receiving a welcome upon his return from Russia by train, at Pyongyang Station in the North Korean capital.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has returned to the capital city of Pyongyang, state media said Wednesday, receiving an "ardent" welcome home after wrapping up a week-long Russia tour.

Kim's tour of Russia's far east included a summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, which has fanned Western fears that isolated, nuclear-armed Pyongyang could provide Moscow with weapons for its drawn-out invasion of Ukraine.

During the trip, North Korea's leader inspected everything from Russian space rockets to submarines.

His visit also included a symbolic exchange of rifles with Putin, with Kim declaring that bilateral ties with Russia were his "number one priority".

Although Moscow and Pyongyang are historic allies, with ties dating back to the Korean War, Beijing has long been the North's largest trading partner and most important benefactor.

Kim returned to Pyongyang on his armoured train on Tuesday evening "in good health after conducting the immortal external revolutionary activities, to be recorded forever in the history of development of the DPRK-Russia friendship", the official Korean Central News Agency said, referring the North by its official name.

At the train station to greet Kim were North Korean senior officials and citizens who had "earnestly waited for the day he would return home in good health".

As Kim's train arrived, it was greeted with "cheers of Hurrah!", KCNA said.

Kim waved and reviewed a military guard of honour, it added.

North Korea and Russia are both under rafts of global sanctions -- Moscow for its Ukraine invasion, Pyongyang for its nuclear weapon tests.

Russia is eager for North Korea's stockpile of artillery shells to be used in Ukraine, while Pyongyang is looking for help with satellite technology and upgrading its Soviet-era military equipment, experts say.