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China is the true power in Putin and Kim’s budding friendship

www.bbc.com China is the true power in Putin and Kim’s budding friendship

There are signs President Xi disapproves of his allies' alliance, the BBC's China correspondent says.

China is the true power in Putin and Kim’s budding friendship

Mr Putin’s first visit to Pyongyang since 2000 was a chance for Russia and North Korea to flaunt their friendship. And flaunt it they did, with Mr Kim declaring his “full support” for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Seoul, Tokyo, Washington and Brussels will see great peril in those words and in the stage-managed meeting. But the fact is the two leaders feel they need each other - Mr Putin badly requires ammunition to keep the war going and North Korea needs money.

However, the real power in the region was not in Pyongyang – and nor did it want to be. Mr Putin and Mr Kim were bonding on China’s doorstep and so would have been wary of provoking Beijing, a vital source of both trade and clout for these two sanctioned regimes.

And even as Mr Putin hails his “firm friendship” with Mr Kim, he must know it has a limit. And that limit is Chinese President Xi Jinping.

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