As Putin visits Pyongyang, Seoul to host Chinese diplomatic, security officials for dialogue

Posted on : 2024-06-14 16:54 KST Modified on : 2024-06-14 16:54 KST
An expected visit by Putin and the first Seoul-Beijing diplomatic security dialogue in nine years could coincide early next week
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin stand for a photo ahead of their summit in Russia’s Far East on Sept. 13, 2023. (KCNA/Yonhap)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin stand for a photo ahead of their summit in Russia’s Far East on Sept. 13, 2023. (KCNA/Yonhap)

A flurry of diplomacy, with North Korea and Russia on one side and South Korea and China on the other, is slated to play out on the Korean Peninsula in the coming week, with preparations for Vladimir Putin’s first visit to North Korea in 24 years seemingly underway and South Korea holding its first diplomatic security dialogue with China in nine years next week.
The South Korean presidential office confirmed Wednesday that the Russian president’s visit to North Korea is imminent. A senior aide accompanying President Yoon Suk-yeol on his state visit to Kazakhstan told the press that Putin will visit North Korea in days to come.
Reports from media in Russia, Japan and elsewhere suggest that Putin will most likely visit North Korea on June 18-19. Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met for a summit nine months ago, in September 2023, at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East. Putin’s most recent visit to North Korea was in July 2000.
Putin’s visit is expected to fortify the ties of the two countries. The two will likely boast of their cooperation in a wide range of areas, such as the economy and the energy sector.
They are also anticipated to discuss specific cooperation, such as Russia’s technological support in space technology development following North Korea’s failed launch of a reconnaissance satellite in late May.
Amid these developments, there is speculation that North Korea will sign a treaty comparable to the 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, And Mutual Assistance that it signed with the Soviet Union. Konstantin Asmolov, a leading research fellow in Korean studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said in an interview with a Russian media outlet that there was a high probability that Kim and Putin would ink some sort of pact that inherits the spirit of the 1961 treaty. 
The treaty included an article stating that both parties would immediately extend military and other assistance in the event of an invasion of the other, which was scrapped after the Soviet Union established diplomatic relations with South Korea in 1990.
The 2000 Treaty of Friendship, Good-neighborliness, and Cooperation signed by North Korea and Russia did not include any language about providing immediate military assistance in the event of an invasion, but merely stated that the two countries shall immediately contact each other in a state of military crisis.

If language specifying immediate military intervention is reinstated, it would rapidly take North Korea and Russia’s recent military chumminess to the level of an alliance reminiscent of the one they shared during the Cold War era.
However, some believe that Putin will be careful and moderate Russia’s level of cooperation with North Korea, conscious of Russia’s need to improve relations with South Korea. In an interview with international news outlets on June 5, Putin said that he “highly appreciates” South Korea’s decision to not directly deliver weapons to the conflict zone with Ukraine and that Russia is interested in developing bilateral ties with South Korea.
On Thursday, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk responded to such statements, saying, “Cooperation between Russia and North Korea should be conducted in a manner that complies with UN Security Council resolutions and contributes to peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.”
Amidst these developments, South Korea and China are slated to hold their first “2 + 2” diplomatic security dialogue in Seoul on Tuesday, the first such meeting in nine years. If Putin does decide to visit North Korea during this period, the North Korea-Russia summit in Pyongyang and the South Korea-China diplomatic and security dialogue in Seoul will coincide.
A recent thaw in until-now chilly Seoul-Beijing ties leads many to believe that the two sides will exchange opinions on the situation on the Korean Peninsula and neighboring countries about Putin’s visit through the diplomatic security dialogue, which is to be conducted at the vice-ministerial level for the first time.
“While maintaining a certain distance from North Korea and Russia, China is trying to manage its relations with the US first, and through that, to manage its relations with South Korea and Japan,” said Shin Bong-sup, a professor at Kwangwoon University and former Korean consul-general in Shenyang, China. “North Korea, on the other hand, wants to increase its strategic significance by strengthening the neo-Cold War blocs of North Korea-China-Russia and South Korea-US-Japan.”
“Despite being in the same situation, North Korea and China are choosing different tactics, putting the situation in a precarious position,” he added.

By Park Min-hee, senior staff writer

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