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Russia and North Korea Sitting in a Tree, M-I-S-S-I-L-E?

Daniel Kim Views  

ⓒ Yonhap News

With Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first visit to North Korea in 24 years set for next week, the international community, including South Korea, is on high alert for close relations between Russia and North Korea. The potential impact on the Korean Peninsula could be significant as the level of military cooperation between the two sides is expected to strengthen with Putin’s visit.

According to the South Korean Presidential Office on the 13th, Putin is expected to visit North Korea in a few days. As such, the South Korean Presidential Office stated that they continue to discuss the North Korean issue even during the Central Asia three-country tour. Russia’s schedule to visit North Korea is rumored to be on June 18-19.

A high-ranking official from the South Korean Presidential Office met with reporters at a press center set up in Astana, Kazakhstan during President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit and said, “We will continue to visit major neighboring countries and our strategic partners to ensure they align with South Korea on the North Korean issue, taking into account Putin’s upcoming visit to North Korea and the strategic dialogue on diplomacy and security between South Korea and China.”

The tensions on the Korean Peninsula have somewhat heightened as the South Korean government officially confirmed the reports from the foreign presses that North Korea is preparing for Putin’s visit. It is predicted that a long-term basis for military cooperation may be established through treaty renewal or a joint declaration during Putin’s visit.

Putin’s visit to North Korea, the first in 24 years since Kim Jong Il’s reign in 2000, is a return visit following Kim Jong Un’s invitation at the North Korea-Russia summit held at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia last September. The meeting between the two sides, which took place sooner than expected, is analyzed as an opportunity to further accelerate and showcase the close relations between the two countries.

There is also speculation that a treaty to elevate bilateral relations may be concluded during this visit. Leading Research Fellow at the Korean Studies Center, RAS Institute for Far Eastern Studies Konstantin Asmolov predicted in an interview with Russian media PrimaMedia on the 11th (local time) that Putin could conclude an agreement inheriting the spirit of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance signed during Kim Il Sung’s visit to the Soviet Union in 1961.

There was a clause of automatic military intervention in the Treaty of Friendship between the Soviet Union and North Korea, but this clause was abolished in 1996. The Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborliness, and Cooperation signed between Russia and North Korea in 2000 also excluded the automatic military intervention clause.

The leading research fellow evaluated that it would be possible to address whether the Russia-North Korea relations will reach a new level after figuring out how much the military and political elements will be included in this document. He also mentioned the possibility that Putin may discuss measures against the UN Security Council’s sanctions on North Korea during his visit.

The South Korean government has stated that North Korea-Russia exchanges and cooperation should comply with the UN Security Council resolutions. Lim Soo Suk, a spokesperson for the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasized in a regular briefing on the same day that North Korean-Russian exchanges and cooperation should contribute to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

In response to the question, “Are you raising concerns about the North Korea-Russia arms trade to the Russian side?” he answered, “We have consistently conveyed our position on North Korea-Russia military cooperation, both publicly and through diplomatic channels.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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