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Putin and Kim’s Nuclear Dance: Should the World Worry?

Daniel Kim Views  

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Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, will visit North Korea on the 18th to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader. Putin’s visit to North Korea after 24 years could bring significant changes to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, including closer ties between North Korea and Russia and a stronger alliance between North Korea, China, and Russia. 

Putin and Kim could adopt a so-called Pyongyang Declaration that focuses on elevating their relationship and strengthening military, security, and economic cooperation. The traditional friendly relationship between North Korea and Russia can be elevated to a strategic partnership. Furthermore, they might even sign a treaty at the alliance level, which includes automatic military intervention.

In 1961, North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty that included a clause for automatic military intervention in case of armed invasion or war. However, this treaty was terminated after the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1990. Afterward, the Treaty of Friendship, Good Neighborly Relations, and Cooperation between the two countries in 2000 included the clause that in case of an invasion threat to either party, both sides would contact them immediately.

Reestablishing North Korea-Russia relations could significantly impact the situation on the Korean Peninsula. In the current situation where North Korea’s provocation level is rising, closer ties between North Korea and Russia could pose a significant threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula. Mutual weapons development support and trade between North Korea and Russia are also subject to sanctions by the United Nations Security Council.

The South Korean government must carefully analyze the ripple effects of the evolving North Korea-Russia relations and diversify diplomatic channels to respond proactively. Strengthening the security alliance between South Korea, the United States, and Japan and enhancing its effectiveness should be a priority. One of the primary measures under consideration to counterbalance North Korea-Russia is institutionalizing the security cooperation system between South Korea, the United States, and Japan through documentation. North Korea, which has accumulated significant missile technology through Russia’s military technology transfer, is likely to become technologically more advanced in its provocations. In response, South Korea, the United States, and Japan must immediately establish an effective and swift response system. A strategy to restore South Korea-Russia relations is also required.

Building a cooperative relationship between South Korea and China is also crucial. Enhancing North Korea-Russia relations leads to closer ties between North Korea, China, and Russia. In that case, a growing concern is that a new Cold War structure of South Korea, the United States, and Japan versus North Korea, China, and Russia could be entrenched. In this context, the significance of the high-level diplomatic and security dialogue between South Korea and China on the 18th, coinciding with the North Korea-Russia summit, is particularly noteworthy. The meeting, initially held at the director-general level in 2013 and 2015 before being upgraded to the vice-ministerial level, is now convened again. It should be a crucial opportunity to urge China to play a constructive role in containing North Korea’s provocations.

China, becoming isolated due to U.S. pressure, does not want to limit its position by being tied to the North Korea-China-Russia structure. Of course, in the high-level dialogues with China, China will likely maintain its principled position on the Korean Peninsula issue. Nevertheless, South Korea must continue demonstrating its diplomatic capabilities with China to effectively counterbalance the North Korea-Russia alliance and achieve substantial progress toward peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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