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Kim Jong Un apparently liked Vladimir Putin's Russian-made limousine so much that Putin gave him one

What North Korea, Russia want from each other
What Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin want from each other 05:54

Seoul — Russian President Vladimir Putin has gifted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a Russian-made car, Pyongyang's state media said Tuesday, as the two countries bolster ties in areas from tourism to defense. The gift would violate successive rounds of United Nations sanctions on the North over Kim's nuclear and other weapons programs — which were passed with Russian approval — that ban the import of any vehicles or luxury goods into the country.

Kim was "presented with a car made in Russia for his personal use by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, president of the Russian Federation," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency reported.

Kim's powerful sister, Yo Jong, said the "gift serves as a clear demonstration of the special personal relations between the top leaders" of the two countries, KCNA added.

Russian President Vladimir Putin shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un his Russian-made Aurus limousine, Sept. 13, 2023, outside the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East region, ahead of their summit. Reuters

The KCNA report did not specify the vehicle's model, but asked about the gift Tuesday in Moscow, chief Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov indicated that it was a version of the Russian-made Aurus limousine that Putin is often chauffeured around in. He said Kim took a shine to the luxury vehicle when Putin gave him a look at his during the North Korean leader's visit to Russia's Far East in September for a summit.

"When the head of the DPRK (North Korea) was at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, he looked at this car, Putin showed it to him personally, and like many people, Kim liked this car," Peskov told reporters. "So this decision was made… North Korea is our neighbor, our close neighbor, and we intend, and will continue, to develop our relations with all neighbors, including North Korea."

Russia Putin
The Aurus limousine carrying Russian President Vladimir Putin drives in Arzamas, Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, Sept. 8, 2023. Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/AP

Since Kim's visit last year, Pyongyang has been drawing ever closer to Moscow, with a group of Russian tourists arriving earlier this month for a four-day trip — the first known foreign tour group since before pandemic-linked border closures in 2020.

Since the Kim-Putin summit in Vostochny, the U.S. and South Korea have accused the North of shipping weapons to Moscow for use in its war with Ukraine, in exchange for Russian help with Kim's satellite programs.

The Russian leader is now set to pay a return visit to Pyongyang, both sides have indicated.

Kim is renowned for his affinity for lavish automobiles. He has been spotted using luxury cars, including Lexus SUVs and Mercedes-Benz S-Class models.

A 2021 U.N. report highlighted an attempted shipment of more than $1 million worth of luxury vehicles, including such models, allegedly from the United Arab Emirates to Ningbo, China, for onward delivery to the North.

Kim Jong Un - Vladimir Putin meeting in Russia
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un steps out of his Maybach limousine upon arriving at the Russian Vostochny Cosmodrome to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in Russia's Far East, Sept. 13, 2023. Kremlin Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

South Korea's unification ministry said it had assessed that the gift from Putin, which it classed as a luxury vehicle and a gift to Kim as head of state, was a violation of U.N. sanctions.

"We condemn North Korea for its brazen attitude of publicly disclosing violations of the U.N. sanctions," a ministry official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Russia should also be aware of its responsibility as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and stop an act that undermines international norms."

During Kim's visit to Russia last year, Putin invited him to climb into the back seat of his Aurus Senat limousine. Kim had arrived at the location in his Maybach limousine, which was transported on a special train he travelled on from the North.

In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump allowed Kim to peek inside his U.S. presidential limousine, commonly known as "The Beast," as the men met for their first in-person summit in Singapore.

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