(Bloomberg) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit North Korea and Vietnam in rare trips to long-time partners as he faces renewed challenges in his war on Ukraine.

Putin will travel to North Korea from Tuesday and Wednesday and go on to Vietnam from there through Thursday, according to Kremlin statements. Kim Jong Un’s regime has been a steadfast supporter of Putin’s war on Ukraine and the two countries are set to deepen their military cooperation during the visit.

The trip to North Korea will be Putin’s first since 2000. It comes as Kim is suspected of sending missiles and millions of rounds of munitions to help Putin in his grinding assault on Ukraine. With Kyiv now taking delivery of billions of dollars in fresh arms from its US and European allies, the window for a Russian breakthrough is narrowing.

“We highly appreciate the DPRK’s unwavering support for Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, their solidarity with us on key international matters and willingness to defend our common priorities and views within the United Nations,” Putin wrote in an article published on a Kremlin website and in North Korea’s official media. Putin referred to North Korea by its official name.

North Korea possesses some of the largest stores of artillery and weapons that are interoperable with Soviet-era systems deployed on the front-lines in Ukraine. Satellite imagery indicates the arms transfers picked up momentum after Kim visited Putin in September, when the North Korean leader toured Russian weapons plants. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the arms transfers despite ample evidence showing them taking place.

“I believe Kim and Putin will pick up from where they left off when Kim was in Russia in September 2023 and seek to further upgrade the bilateral relationship across many, if not all, realms,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior fellow with the 38 North Program at the Stimson Center. She added this may mean the leaders upgrading a treaty adopted in 2000 to include stronger language about military and security cooperation.

“For as long as the war in Ukraine continues, North Korea-Russia relations will remain solid. What the relationship will look like after the war in Ukraine is over, that is harder to predict,” said Lee, who worked as an analyst for the CIA’s Open Source Enterprise for almost two decades.

For months, Russia’s army has made only limited gains on the battlefield against Ukrainian troops that were running low on weapons.

Kim, meanwhile, has presided over tests of some of his newest artillery rockets and ballistic missile systems. South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik has said the weapons displays may have been intended to impress Putin by showing him what North Korea could provide for his assault on Ukraine.

In return for the munitions from Kim’s regime that could reach as high as nearly 5 million artillery shells, Russia has sent to North Korea technology to help in its plans to deploy an array of spy satellites as well as conventional arms such as tanks and aircraft, Shin said in an interview with Bloomberg News. Russia will likely send military technology to Kim, increasing Pyongyang’s threat to the region, Shin added.

Russia and North Korea plan to sign an agreement on strategic partnership, including on security and economic cooperation during Putin’s visit that will replace existing accords dating back as far as 1961, Kremlin foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters, according to the state-run Tass news agency. 

Putin will be accompanied in North Korea by Defense Minister Andrey Belousov, First Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, as well as Russian space agency chief Yury Borisov and the head of Russian Railways, Oleg Belozerov.

The stakes for Putin’s visit to Vietnam will likely be lower. He last went there in 2017, when the nation hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in the coastal city of Danang.

Vietnam and Russia have ties going back decades to the Soviet Union. Moscow was a major supplier of military aid to Vietnam during its war with the US. The Southeast Asian nation has since relied on Russia for weapons, including aircraft and Kilo-class, diesel-powered submarines. 

Relations between Vietnam and Russia have stayed warm, with Moscow also a key stakeholder in Vietnam’s energy sector. Vietsovpetro, a joint venture between Vietnam and Russia, runs one of the country’s largest oil fields in Bach Ho, which has been in operation for about four decades.

--With assistance from Ilya Arkhipov.

(Updates with Putin’s quote in paragraph four.)

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