FirstFT: Kim Jong Un offers ‘unconditional’ support for Russia’s war in Ukraine

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Good morning. We begin today with Kim Jong Un’s closely watched meeting with Vladimir Putin, where the North Korean leader offered his country’s “full and unconditional support” for Russia’s war in Ukraine, which he called a “sacred fight” against imperialism and the west.

The leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia’s most advanced space rocket launch site located in the country’s far east, with their countries facing international isolation and sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programmes.

The US has grown increasingly alarmed by the possibility of an arms deal between Russia and North Korea, as Putin seeks to replenish supplies of conventional munitions depleted by heavy artillery use in Ukraine.

Asked about military-technical co-operation, Putin said: “There are certain restrictions which Russia adheres to, but there are things that we can discuss, and there are prospects.”

Read the full story on the meeting — and Kim’s “big plans” for the rest of his Russia visit.

  • FT View: A North Korea-Russia arms deal is bad news for Ukraine, the US, and even China.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Arm IPO: The SoftBank-owned UK chip designer is set to begin trading on the Nasdaq exchange, the largest initial public offering in two years.

  • ECB interest rate decision: Today’s European Central Bank meeting is set to be one of the most fiercely debated in months. Governors are split over whether to raise or keep rates on hold, with potential pitfalls in either direction.

  • UK-China relations: The British government is expected to formally respond to a damning report from parliament’s intelligence and security committee in July, which found the UK’s approach to China’s “increasingly sophisticated” espionage was “completely inadequate”.

Five more top stories

1. The EU has announced an anti-subsidy investigation into China’s electric car industry in an attempt to shield European manufacturers before they are priced out by Chinese rivals. “Global markets are now flooded with cheaper Chinese electric cars,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said in her annual address to EU lawmakers. The probe could lead to tariffs on China’s manufacturers.

  • Go deeper: The EU market share taken by Chinese EVs is growing fast and could hit 15 per cent within two years — in a repeat of what the bloc experienced with solar panels over a decade ago.

  • More EV news: More than half the EVs sold by VinFast this year have been to a related party, underscoring the limited demand for models from the Vietnamese start-up whose valuation briefly eclipsed those of Ford and General Motors.

2. China warned it has “noticed reports” of iPhone-related “security incidents” in its first official comments following news that government bodies are cracking down on the use of Apple’s devices. Beijing said that while foreign phones were not banned from China, producers should “strictly adhere” to data protection and information security laws. Here’s more on Beijing’s rules on official iPhone use.

3. Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida has overhauled his cabinet in an attempt to revive his popularity before his term as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic party expires in 12 months. Kishida filled one-quarter of posts with women and brought in new ministers to implement his foreign and defence policies. Analysts said Kishida could call a snap election by the end of the year if his popularity recovered, but some questioned whether the new line-up was fresh enough to strengthen his position.

4. The allegations that prompted Bernard Looney’s resignation from BP were made as recently as last week, showing the rapid unravelling of the chief executive’s position at the company, according to two people familiar with the situation. The board responded by opening a second investigation in 18 months into Looney’s past personal relationships with colleagues before the chief executive resigned on Tuesday. Read the full story.

5. Indian education technology company Byju’s transferred $533mn to an obscure Florida-based hedge fund with the registered address of an IHOP pancake restaurant, creditors to what was once India’s most valuable start-up have alleged. The lenders claim that the transfer was part of the company’s attempt to “to conceal the whereabouts” of the cash. It is the latest and strangest episode in Byju’s US legal drama.

The Big Read

firstft kim jong un offers unconditional support for russias war in ukraine
© FT montage/Getty Images

The release of ChatGPTlast November spurred a rush of feverish excitement over artificial intelligence but also increased awareness of its dangers: the potential to spread misinformation during elections, replacing jobs and one day becoming more intelligent than and superseding humans. While regulators and companies have been loud in voicing the need to control AI, ideas on how to do so have diverged widely.

We’re also reading . . . 

  • Hong Kong’s domestic workers: They bring up babies, care for the elderly, walk dogs, cook and clean — but many are tiring of the long hours and low wages.

  • Elon Musk biography: Walter Isaacson’s much-hyped book is long on reporting detail but shorter on the meaning of the tech entrepreneur’s work, writes Rana Foroohar.

  • Ukraine’s abducted children: There is a race against time for Ukrainian children taken to Russia without their families’ consent, writes Gillian Tett.

Graphic of the day

China’s newest aircraft carrier, the Fujian, aims to challenge US air superiority in the Pacific. While it still trails the US Navy’s advanced carriers, the Fujian marks a leap in Beijing’s pursuit of projecting armed force far beyond its shores.

Diagram comparing the latest US and Chinese aircraft carriers

Take a break from the news

Why do we collect clothes? Mark C O’Flaherty’s new book, Narrative Thread, presents an intimate portrait of the many reasons we hold on to certain items of clothing. “Where families and lovers are involved, some items were incredibly emotional,” O’Flaherty told the FT.

Charlie Casely-Hayford in Hackney, London, wearing a suit by his own label
Charlie Casely-Hayford in Hackney, London, wearing a suit by his own label © Mark C O’Flaherty

Additional contributions from Tee Zhuo and Miles Ellingham

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