Putin-Kim Summit: Russia-North Korea Military Ties Pose Challenge to International Community

If Russia, continuing its invasion of Ukraine, and North Korea, developing nuclear weapons and missiles, advance their military cooperation, the threats they pose will increase even further. This is a dangerous challenge to the international community.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who also is general secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, visited Russia by train and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a space center in Russia’s Far East. The meeting was their first in 4½ years, and the military and political situations on the Korean Peninsula and in Europe were reportedly the main topics of discussion.

The exceptionally warm welcome Putin gave Kim attracted much attention. The Russian president greeted his guest at the space center and showed him around the facility in person.

Russia has been increasingly isolated in the international community as a result of sanctions imposed by the United States, Europe and Japan following its invasion of Ukraine. It has been pointed out that the prolonged aggression has also led to a shortage of weapons and ammunition. According to U.S. government analysis, Moscow has asked Pyongyang for ammunition assistance and is pursuing negotiations with North Korea.

During the recent talks, Kim expressed to Putin his full support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Representatives of both countries including the defense ministers and senior military officials were also present at the meeting, and it is possible that they agreed on specific military cooperation.

If North Korea actually provides ammunition and other supplies, Russia’s ability to continue fighting would be strengthened, which could further prolong the invasion. This would run counter to the international community’s call for the immediate withdrawal of the Russian military and a ceasefire, and it must not be tolerated.

North Korea is also becoming increasingly isolated due to pressure mainly from Japan, the United States and South Korea. It is obvious that Kim is attempting to make a breakthrough by strengthening relations with Russia.

North Korea has set a goal of developing a military reconnaissance satellite, but twice this year the country has failed to launch one. Kim is interested in Russia’s space science and technology, and Putin reportedly has expressed support for North Korea in this regard.

Rockets used to launch satellites are based on ballistic missile technology, which North Korea is banned from using under U.N. Security Council resolutions. If Russia supports North Korea’s satellite development, it would violate the resolutions. Arms trade with North Korea is also prohibited by the resolutions.

These resolutions were adopted with the support of Russia itself, a permanent member of the Security Council. Putin’s behavior of specially favoring Kim makes a mockery of the Security Council’s very reason for being. Such utter folly will shake the international order.

Kim said during the talks with Putin that Pyongyang would give top priority to strengthening relations with Russia. How does China, which has been a backer of North Korea, perceive Kim’s remark?

China itself is partly responsible for causing regional tensions that it does not want, as Beijing has given tacit approval to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile development and has emboldened Kim.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 15, 2023)