Putin gets a pair of North Korean hunting dogs after defense pact with dictator Kim

SEOUL, South Korea − North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a pair of Pungsan dogs, a local breed, state media KCNA reported Thursday as the two nations pledged mutual defense against the U.S.

Kim and Putin were seen looking at the dogs, who were tethered to a rose-covered fence, during a segment aired on state-controlled Korean Central Television on Thursday.

The two bonded over animals as Kim fed carrots to a horse while Putin patted its head. They also took turns driving each other around in a Russian-built Aurus limousine on Wednesday.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un pet dogs during a walk in the garden of the Kumsusan Guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this image released by the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un pet dogs during a walk in the garden of the Kumsusan Guesthouse in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this image released by the Korean Central News Agency on Thursday.

The canine gift came after Putin and Kim signed a mutual defense pact on Wednesday that included cooperation on nuclear energy, space exploration, food and energy security, one of Moscow's highest-profile moves in Asia in years. Putin visited China last month, soon after his inauguration for a fifth term as president.

"In case any one of the two sides is put in a state of war by an armed invasion from an individual state or several states, the other side shall provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay," Article 4 of the agreement says.

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Washington and Seoul have been increasingly alarmed by deepening military cooperation between Russia and the North, and have accused them of violating international laws by trading in arms for Russia to use against Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have said they have found North Korean missile debris inside their country. Russia and North Korea deny any arms trade.

Kim, a horseman, was famously pictured riding a white stallion in North Korea's Mount Paektu during snowfall in photos released by state media in 2019, flooding the internet with memes.

He was seen riding a white horse again in a propaganda video in 2022.

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The horses Kim rode are symbolic for North Korea, which named its economic effort to recover from the 1950-53 Korean War after the mythical winged horse Chollima. The country's latest rocket booster is also named Chollima-1.

Putin, who prizes his sporty image, has also been pictured shirtless several times in photos released by Russian state media, including one set in which he rode a brown horse while wearing wrap-around sunglasses, a gold chain and army trousers.

Pungsans are a breed of hunting dogs native to a region in northern North Korea.

Former South Korean president Moon Jae-in also received a pair of white Pungsans − named "Gomi" and "Songgang" − from Kim in 2018 during a breakthrough in inter-Korean relations.

In 2022, a freight train carrying 30 gray thoroughbred horses heading to North Korea departed Russia's far east through the Khasan-Tumangan crossing, according to Russia's veterinary service, in what appeared to be the first reported train shipment between the two countries post-pandemic.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Putin receives North Korean hunting dogs in gift from dictator Kim