Japan Heightens Vigilance After Russia-North Korea Treaty; Fears New Pact May Hasten North Korea’s Nuclear Development

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un give a press conference following their talks in Pyongyang on Wednesday.

Japan has heightened its vigilance after Russia and North Korea signed a new treaty in which they pledge to defend each other in the event of an attack on either country.

There are fears that stronger ties with Russia will promote North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. Japan intends to counter this in cooperation with the United States, South Korea and other countries.

Bilateral ties reach ‘alliance’

The new treaty was signed Wednesday by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who visited Pyongyang. Putin clarified the treaty’s military elements in a joint briefing with Kim, saying that it stipulated mutual support in the event of aggression against either country. Kim said the bilateral relationship had reached the point of an “alliance.”

Kim was apparently keeping in mind the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed in 1961 between the Soviet Union and North Korea, stipulating an obligation to immediately extend military and other assistance in the event of an armed attack on either party or a war. The treaty was called the “automatic intervention clause,” but it expired in 1996 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Worsening security

“The security environment surrounding our country, including the strengthened military partnership between Russia and North Korea, is increasingly severe,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said Wednesday at a press conference. Hayashi expressed Japan’s intention to closely monitor developments between Moscow and Pyongyang.

Japan is nervous about Russia and North Korea strengthening their ties in response to Russia’s prolonged aggression in Ukraine. North Korea is believed to have provided Russia with ammunition, while Russia is giving North Korea refined oil products and military technology.

“Russia’s technical cooperation could accelerate North Korea’s nuclear and missile development,” a Japanese government official said.

The Defense Ministry is also alarmed. Russia illegally occupies Japan’s northern territories, and deepening Russia-North Korea cooperation could lead to increased military pressure on Japan and complicate the security environment around Japan.

Japan will strengthen security cooperation with the United States and South Korea, while maintaining strong sanctions on Russia for its continued aggression in Ukraine.