Relations between Russia and North Korea have reached a "qualitatively new, strategic" level, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday in Pyongyang, according to Moscow state media.
Lavrov arrived Wednesday night for a two-day visit after accompanying President Vladimir Putin on a trip to Beijing.
The veteran envoy's meetings in Pyongyang are expected to lay the groundwork for a future visit by Putin, who was invited by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month at a high-profile summit in Russia's far east.
"After the landmark summit ... we can say confidently that (Russia-North Korea) relations have reached a qualitatively new, strategic level," Lavrov reportedly told North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui at a Thursday meeting.
The night before, he touted North Korea's support for Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine after arriving in Pyongyang.
"We highly value your principled, unambiguous support for Russia's actions in connection with the special military operation in Ukraine," Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russia's RIA news agency.
Kim last month travelled to Russia aboard a specially built bullet-proof train for a face-to-face meeting with Putin, declaring bilateral ties with Moscow his country's "number one priority".
Their talks were held at Russia's Vostochny Cosmodrome, roughly 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) from Moscow, a location seen as symbolic given North Korea's space aspirations.
Pyongyang has twice failed in attempts to place a military reconnaissance satellite into orbit, most recently in August. A third attempt has been promised for this month.
September's Kim-Putin summit fanned Western fears Pyongyang might provide Moscow with weapons for its drawn-out war in Ukraine.
On Friday, the United States said arms shipments were already under way, with North Korea delivering more than 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia in recent weeks.
According to a graphic provided by the White House, a load of containers was shipped by sea from North Korea to Russia between September 1 and October 1.
They were then delivered by rail to an ammunition depot about 290 kilometers (180 miles) from the Ukrainian border.
Pyongyang was seeking a range of military assistance in return, including advanced technologies, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Moscow this week denounced the allegations, insisting Washington has no proof that weapons are being shipped.
The tightening of the alliance between Moscow and Pyongyang comes with relations between the two Koreas at a historic low and diplomacy stalled.
The North has conducted a record-breaking series of weapons tests this year and recently enshrined its status as a nuclear weapons state in its constitution.
South Korea has in turn moved to strengthen its security relationship with traditional ally the United States while entering a new trilateral defense arrangement that also includes Japan.
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