Kim and Putin to fortify anti-West cooperation on security, economics

Posted on : 2024-06-19 16:24 KST Modified on : 2024-06-19 16:32 KST
Seoul says it will monitor the progress of the summit between the leaders of North Korea and Russia
President Vladimir Putin of Russia embraces North Korean leader Kim Jong-un upon arriving at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on June 19, 2024. (Sputnik/Yonhap)
President Vladimir Putin of Russia embraces North Korean leader Kim Jong-un upon arriving at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport on June 19, 2024. (Sputnik/Yonhap)

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Pyongyang early on Wednesday morning, kicking off his first visit to North Korea in 24 years. The diplomatic move represents a watershed moment not only for East Asian politics, but also for the world order as a whole.

Putin’s plane touched down at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport after 2 am on Wednesday. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was on hand to personally greet the Russian president.

While the Kremlin had announced Putin would arrive in Pyongyang on the evening of June 18, his flight from his previous destination of Yakutsk was delayed, pushing the date of his arrival back to June 19.

Kim and Putin were planning to hold a summit on Tuesday and to strengthen overall cooperation by signing an agreement upgrading their bilateral relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” In a presidential document published on Russia’s legal website on Monday, Putin decreed the adoption of an agreement to form such a partnership with North Korea.

North Korea had close relations with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, including a friendship and mutual assistance treaty, but after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that relationship was demoted to one of cooperation in a treaty signed with Russia in 2000. Now, 24 years later, the two countries’ relationship is being upgraded into a comprehensive strategic partnership.

While that would appear to be one step higher than the strategic partnership that Russia signed with South Korea in 2008, that doesn’t mean Russia and North Korea will immediately form a military alliance specifying automatic military intervention in the event of a war.

Before his arrival in North Korea, Putin published an article that ran on the front page of North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Tuesday morning, in which he emphasized the importance of Russia-North Korea relations in a “multipolar world order” that Russia seeks to establish.
In the article, titled “Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: Tradition of friendship and cooperation lasts decade after decade,” Putin spoke highly of North Korea’s firm support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how the country expressed solidarity with Russia on major international issues. He also stressed how North Korea is a reliable comrade and supporter of Russia’s strategy to oppose the US and other Western countries.
“Pyongyang has always been our committed and like-minded supporter, ready to confront the ambition of the collective West to prevent the emergence of a multipolar world order based on justice, mutual respect for sovereignty and consideration of each other’s interests,” Putin wrote, according to the Kremlin. 
He stressed, “We are also ready to closely work together [with North Korea] to bring more democracy and stability to international relations.”
In order to meet such goals, Putin stated, “We will 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.”
This can be interpreted to mean that Russia and North Korea will cooperate to stand up against the international community’s economic sanctions and intend to devise a national security system to oppose that of the US and its allies.
An official in Seoul’s presidential office seemed wary of drawing hasty conclusions, saying, “We will keep an eye on how the Russia-North Korea summit is progressing, and if we need to put out a statement, we will do so.”
The direction and level of South Korea’s response will likely be determined by the outcomes of the Russia-North Korea summit, depending on factors such as the level of cooperation in various fields, including military cooperation, between the two countries.

By Park Min-hee, senior staff writer

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