U.S., ROK Concerned DPRK May Send Troops to Ukraine; Putin, Kim Have Reportedly Discussed Possibility

Kremlin via Reuters
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un at a signing ceremony following bilateral talks in Pyongyang on June 19.

SEOUL — The U.S. and South Korean governments are wary of the possibility that North Korea will dispatch military forces such as engineering units to areas occupied by Russia in Ukraine.

In June, Russia and North Korea signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” pact stipulating mutual military assistance in case of emergency.

According to sources familiar with the bilateral relations, there is information that Russian President Vladimir Putin asked North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to send North Korean troops to Ukraine during a Russia-North Korea summit meeting.

When Putin met with Kim at the Vostochny Cosmodrome space launch center in Russia’s Far East in September, he asked for a prompt, long-term and stable supply of weapons, including artillery shells. Putin also asked for troop assistance, the sources said.

In response, Kim agreed to supply weapons but did not clarify his position on troop deployments, saying further discussions were needed.

When Putin visited North Korea in June for the first time in 24 years, he reportedly asked again for arms and troop assistance, they said.

After the meeting with Kim, Putin flew to Vietnam and denied the possibility of North Korea sending troops to Ukraine, telling Russian media that he had not asked anyone to send forces and that there was no need to do so.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service expressed its view on the possible deployment of North Korean troops in Ukraine, saying it is closely monitoring developments in Russia-North Korea cooperation.

Some South Korean government officials speculate that North Korean engineering troops will be deployed to eastern Ukraine, which Russia has unilaterally annexed, to engage in reconstruction work.

U.S. Defense Department Spokesperson Pat Ryder also stated at a press conference on June 25 that the United States is keeping a close eye on the possibility of a North Korean deployment.