Seoul decries N. Korea-Russia mutual defense pact as ‘absurd’

Posted on : 2024-06-21 17:10 KST Modified on : 2024-06-21 17:10 KST
South Korea also said it would consider supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons as it fights Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sign their “DPRK-Russia Treaty on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” on June 19, 2024, in this photo released June 20 by KCNA. (KCNA/Yonhap)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sign their “DPRK-Russia Treaty on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” on June 19, 2024, in this photo released June 20 by KCNA. (KCNA/Yonhap)

North Korea and Russia have agreed to provide immediate military aid with all means at their disposal in the event that the other faces armed aggression, leveling up the relationship between the two countries to that of an alliance.
 
This was made apparent when North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency took the surprise move of publishing the full text of the treaty on comprehensive strategic partnership that was signed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
 
In response, a high-ranking official in South Korea’s presidential office stated that Seoul “will now review our policy of not providing arms to Ukraine.”
 
Article 4 of the new treaty as published by KCNA says, “In case any one of the two sides is put in a state of war by an armed invasion from an individual state or several states, the other side shall provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and the laws of the DPRK and the Russian Federation,” thereby defining mutual military aid obligations between allies.
  
This article is similar to a phrase in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance adopted by the two countries at the height of the Cold War in 1961, which stipulated military assistance by saying that the two parties will “immediately extend military and other assistance with all the means at its disposal.”
 
However, the 2024 treaty has differentiated itself from the 1961 treaty by adding the phrase, “in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and the laws of the DPRK and the Russian Federation,” which was absent from the 1961 treaty. A high-ranking Seoul presidential office aide stated, “It can be inferred that this doesn’t mean automatic military intervention.”
 
With relations between Russia and North Korea being upgraded to that of an alliance, Russia now has the grounds to intervene militarily if a war were to break out on the Korean Peninsula.
 
The political situation on the Korean Peninsula is expected to return to the state it was in during the Cold War, with a deep rift between two blocs: South Korea, the US and Japan on one side, and North Korea and Russia on the other.
 
“Unification” of Korea is no longer mentioned in the 2024 treaty, unlike those signed in 1961 and 2000. In January, Kim called to delete the phrases related to reunification — that it be pursued “independently,” “through peaceful means” and centering “great national unity as one people” — from the North’s constitution.
 
“It’s now clear that North Korea’s characterization of inter-Korean relations as relations ‘between two states hostile to each other’ was a strategic decision,” assessed Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies. 
 
The treaty, which contains 23 articles, dictates that the two countries will cooperate not only in the military field, but also in the fields of economy, space, energy, artificial intelligence, IT and more.
 
The South Korean government held an emergency National Security Council meeting on Thursday afternoon in response to the developments. After the meeting, it condemned North Korea and Russia’s new treaty through a ‘statement by the government,’ saying, “We express serious concern over the fact that North Korea and Russia have signed a treaty on comprehensive strategic partnership and have agreed to strengthen cooperation in the military and economic fields.”
 
Saying that North Korea and Russia had each instigated wars of aggression, Seoul stated that military cooperation between the two countries is “absurd sophistry.”

A senior security official in Seoul’s presidential office announced plans to “review our policy of not providing lethal arms to Ukraine.” As of now, South Korea is only supplying Ukraine with non-lethal military supplies, such as gas masks.

By Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

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