Putin and Kim Jong-un sign strategic agreement including mutual defense pact

The leaders of Russia and North Korea finalized a comprehensive partnership document in Pyongyang, which does ‘not exclude developing military-technical cooperation’

Kim Jong-un greeting Vladimir Putin at a welcome ceremony Wednesday in Pyongyang.
Kim Jong-un greeting Vladimir Putin at a welcome ceremony Wednesday in Pyongyang.Vladimir Smirnov (via REUTERS)
Guillermo Abril

Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un signed a “strategic partnership agreement” in Pyongyang Wednesday, which includes a pact on mutual defense “in case of aggression,” the Russian president himself said after the meeting. The treaty will raise the interaction between the two countries “to a new level” and touches on all kinds of sectors, from trade to security. The pact will also heighten Western concerns about the growing partnership between two countries with nuclear arsenals and aligned over the war in Ukraine. Putin, in fact, has linked Moscow’s rapprochement with Pyongyang to Western support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion. After underlining that the United States already supplies high-precision weapons and F-16 planes to Kyiv to strike targets on Russian territory, he added that Moscow does “not exclude developing military-technical cooperation” with North Korea, as reported by Reuters. Kim stated that the pact is “thoroughly peaceful and defensive " in nature.

The clocks of Moscow and Pyongyang, two countries isolated by a large part of the international community, have been aligning out of necessity. Firstly, because of the invasion of Ukraine; secondly, because of North Korea’s nuclear program. In his first visit to the neighboring country in 24 years, the Russian president took advantage of his appearance at the end of the face-to-face with Kim to call for a review of the system of restrictions imposed by the United Nations Security Council on Pyongyang. “We will continue to oppose the practice of sanctions strangulation as a tool that the West is accustomed to using to maintain its hegemony in politics, economy and other spheres,” Putin said.

The formal meeting between the two delegations began Wednesday morning (local time) in Pyongyang with anti-Western sophistry. “We highly appreciate your consistent and unwavering support for Russian policy, including in the Ukrainian direction,” the Russian president told Kim at the beginning of the face-to-face meeting, before alluding to a “struggle against the hegemonic policy imposed for decades, the imperialist policy on the part of the United States and its satellites towards the Russian Federation.”

Kim said that the relations between North Korea and Russia are entering a period of “new great prosperity,” and expressed his country’s “full support and solidarity to the Russian government, army and people in carrying out a special military operation on Ukraine.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un shake hands during the official welcome ceremony in the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un shake hands during the official welcome ceremony in the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Gavriil Grigorov (Pool/Sputnik/Kremlin/AP)

Concern in West over Moscow-Pyongyang deal

Washington, which suspects North Korea of supplying ammunition to Russia, sees Putin’s trip as a sign of Moscow’s “desperation” — a term used Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — to secure arms supplies. South Korean intelligence services estimate that Pyongyang has managed to secretly send Russia almost five million projectiles and dozens of ballistic missiles. The U.S. estimates that 11,000 containers have been used to transport this ammunition. The supply line, vital for a Russian war industry that is losing steam after more than two years of war, allegedly began after Kim’s visit to Russia last September.

There are also concerns about what Moscow will be handing over in return to a country isolated by the world and hit by international sanctions due to its nuclear program. Washington has denounced the increase of Russian refined oil exports above the limits set by the United Nations, and NATO expressed Tuesday, through its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, its fear of “potential” Russian support for the North Korean atomic and missile programs.

South Korean Defense Minister Shin Wonsik has assured that Russia has supplied North Korea with technology to aid it in its plans to deploy a series of spy satellites, as well as conventional weapons such as tanks and aircraft, according to Bloomberg.

Before making the strategic partnership public, Putin stated it was “a new fundamental document which will lay the foundation for our relations for a long-term perspective.” Artyom Luki, an analyst at the Far Eastern Federal University quoted by Reuters, said that, depending on the literal text of the pact, which was not immediately made public, the agreement could signal a profound change in the strategic situation in Northeast Asia.

After the signing of the new agreement, the two leaders went for a spin in a limousine produced the Russian luxury brand Aurus, with Putin at the wheel and Kim as passenger. The Russian president recently gifted the North Korean leader one of these vehicles.

Before landing in Pyongyang, Putin said that he intends to create with his neighboring country a system of exchanges of his own with which to circumvent the increasingly suffocating knot of sanctions. Putin’s proposal is to “develop alternative trade and mutual settlements mechanisms not controlled by the West, jointly oppose illegitimate unilateral restrictions, and shape the architecture of equal and indivisible security in Eurasia,” he wrote Tuesday in an article published by the North Korean state press.

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