N. Korea, Russia forge new defense alliance, raising concerns about further military cooperation

By Park Ung Posted : June 19, 2024, 21:25 Updated : June 20, 2024, 17:56
러시아 푸틴 대통령과 김정은 북한 국무위원장이 19일 평양 금수산 영빈관에서 포괄적 전략 동반자 관계 조약을 체결했다 사진AFP 연합뉴스
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un pose for a photo after their summit in Pyongyang on June 19, 2024. AFP-Yonhap
SEOUL, June 19 (AJU PRESS) - North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin signed a pact for a comprehensive strategic partnership after a bilateral summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

During a joint press conference after 90-minute talks followed by a two-hour one-on-one meeting, the two leaders agreed to elevate their bilateral relationship to the level of alliance through a new treaty. They also vowed to provide mutual assistance in case of aggression against either of them, raising concerns that the two countries could further deepen their military cooperation.

Expressing his satisfaction, Kim hailed the pact calling it "the strongest ever treaty," adding that "I have no doubt it will become a driving force accelerating the creation of a new multipolar world." 

Putin, visiting the isolated country for the first time in about 24 years, responded by saying that Russia "would not rule out military and technical cooperation with North Korea" under the new pact.

According to Russian state news agency TASS, the pact "includes, among other things, the provision of mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties," Putin was quoted as saying. 

That raised alarms among experts who interpret Russia's newly strengthened partnership with North Korea as a revival of the clause of "military intervention" from the 1961 Soviet-era treaty which was abolished after the Cold War. The treaty included a clause stating that if one side is attacked, the other would provide immediate military support and use all necessary means to assist.

Putin also pledged to work with North Korea to counter sanctions as both countries will expand their "many-sided partnership," according to earlier reports by Russian news outlets.

Wednesday's summit came about nine months after their meeting in Russia in September last year. Facing international sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has been bolstering military ties with North Korea in exchange for economic assistance and transfers of key military technologies, which would bolster North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile programs.

Earlier in the day, Putin arrived in Pyongyang in the small hours, much later than expected, making his short stay in Pyongyang even shorter.

In Washington, "Deepening cooperation between Russia and [North Korea] is a trend that should be of great concern to anyone interested in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, upholding the global non-proliferation regime, abiding by UN Security Council resolutions, and supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and independence against Russia's brutal invasion," the White House's press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in her briefing. 

The U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken commented the previous day that Russia is "in desperation to develop and to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine. North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia and other weapons for use in Ukraine." He added, "We'll continue to do everything we can to cut off the support that countries like Iran and North Korea are providing."

After a dinner banquet, Putin wrapped up his itinerary in Pyongyang and headed to Viet Nam.
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