North Korea’s Kim enjoys a Russian luxury limousine gifted by Putin as the two nations expand ties

FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, Sept. 13, 2023. Kim used a Russian luxury limousine gifted by Putin recently, Kim’s sister said Saturday, March 16, 2024, praising the car’s “special function” and the two countries' deepening bilateral ties. (Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un shake hands during their meeting at the Vostochny cosmodrome outside the city of Tsiolkovsky, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the city of Blagoveshchensk in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, Sept. 13, 2023. Kim used a Russian luxury limousine gifted by Putin recently, Kim’s sister said Saturday, March 16, 2024, praising the car’s “special function” and the two countries’ deepening bilateral ties. (Vladimir Smirnov/Sputnik Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un used a Russian luxury limousine gifted by President Vladimir Putin, Kim’s sister said Saturday, praising the car’s “special function” and the two countries’ deepening bilateral ties.

In February, Putin sent Kim a high-end Aurus Senat limousine, which he had shown to the North Korean leader when they met for a summit in Russia in September. Observers said the shipment violated a United Nations resolution aimed at pressuring the North to give up its nuclear weapons program by banning the supply of luxury items to North Korea.

In a statement carried by state media, Kim’s sister and senior official, Kim Yo Jong, said that her brother used that limousine for the first time during an open event Friday.

“The special function of the private car is perfect and can be thoroughly trusted,” Kim Yo Jong said, without specifying. “Kim Jong Un’s using of the private car sent by the president of the Russian Federation as a gift is a clear proof of (North Korea)-Russia friendship, which is developing in a comprehensive way on a new high stage.”

According to Russian state media, Aurus was the first Russian luxury car brand, and it’s been used in motorcades of top officials since Putin first used an Aurus limousine during his inauguration ceremony in 2018.

Kim Jong Un, 40, possess a collection of foreign-made luxury cars believed to have been smuggled into his country. During his Russia visit, he traveled between meeting sites in a Maybach limousine that was brought with him on one of his special train carriages. Other limousines he’s reportedly used include a Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Guard and a Maybach S62.

Over the past year, North Korea and Russia have sharply boosted their military and other cooperation as they face separate confrontations with the West — North Korea for its advancing nuclear program and Russia for its invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Drawing the biggest outside concerns was North Korea’s purported shipments of conventional weapons to support Russia’s war with Ukraine to receive high-tech Russian weapons technologies and other support.

Russia, together with China, have repeatedly blocked the United States and its partners’ attempts to impose fresh U.N. sanctions on North Korea over its barrage of banned ballistic missile tests.

North Korea’s state media separately reported Saturday that Kim Jong Un guided his troops conducting parachuting training the previous day. It’s unclear if Friday’s training was the same event in which Kim rode in the Russian limousine.

The parachuting training was the latest in a series of military drills that Kim has supervised in recent days, likely in response to the annual 11-day South Korean-U.S. military exercises that ended Thursday. Kim views his rivals’ exercises as an invasion rehearsal.

After watching Friday’s training, Kim ordered his military to conduct future training more intensively and make full preparation for a war, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. Kim made similar demands after he guided other recent drills involving tanks, long-range artillery guns and combat soldiers.

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