A group of Russian tourists arrived in Pyongyang on Friday, AFP reporters saw, the first known foreign tour group to visit nuclear-armed North Korea since before pandemic-linked border closures.

AFP video and photographs showed Russian tourists arriving at Pyongyang airport, wandering around the airport and smiling as they took pictures, with the arrivals board showing the flight details.

The move comes as Moscow and Pyongyang bolster ties, with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un making a rare overseas trip to meet President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Far East last September.

South Korea and Washington have subsequently claimed the North has shipped weapons to Moscow for use in Ukraine, which would violate a raft of UN sanctions on both countries, the North for its banned weapons programmes and Russia for the war with Kyiv.

Natalia Zinina, a manager at Vostok Intur tour agency which organised the trip, told Seoul-based specialist site NK News that the tour group would visit the North from February 9 to 12.

The group will be "first stopping in Pyongyang before traveling to the Masikryong Ski Resort near the city of Wonsan on the country's east coast," the report said.

A total of 97 Russian nationals are expected to join the four-day trip.

It has become harder for Russians to travel to Europe and the United States since sanctions were imposed following the invasion of Ukraine, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov -- who has also visited Pyongyang -- said last year that the North could be recommended as a tourist destination, Tass reported.

The Russians are believed to be the first group of foreign tourists to enter the North since the country reopened its border in August last year, after nearly four years of pandemic-linked border closures.

"This example highlights the revitalisation of exchange and cooperation in various fields between the two countries following the North Korea-Russia summit," Yang Moo-jin, president of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told AFP, referring to Putin and Kim's meeting last year.

"It particularly suggests an intent to pave the way for Putin's visit to North Korea," he said.

"There is a likelihood of Russia providing humanitarian aid, including food, to North Korea in the near future. North Korea is also likely to speed up and expand the scope of its support, including missiles, to Russia," he added.

Nuclear-armed North Korea has this year declared Seoul its "principal enemy", closed agencies dedicated to reunification and outreach, and threatened war over "even 0.001 millimetres" of territorial infringement.

Analysts have warned recently that Pyongyang could be testing cruise missiles ahead of sending them to Russia for use in Ukraine.