Russia-North Korea Pact

❖: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent Pyongyang visit culminated in a landmark pact between Russia and North Korea.

Historical context of Russia-North Korea relations

  • After WWII, the Soviet Union sought to establish a communist regime in Korea, offering significant military assistance to North Korean founder Kim Il Sung during the Korean War.
  • The USSR and China continued military and other aid to communist North Korea even after the war.
  • In 1961, the two nations solidified their alliance with the signing of the Russo-North Korea Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance, which included a mutual defense agreement.
  • Relations temporarily deteriorated after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, voiding the treaty.
  • Russia did not initially support North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and even backed sanctions against Pyongyang to curb its nuclear capabilities.
  • Following the Ukraine invasion, Russia and North Korea found common ground against the Western liberal order based on pragmatic considerations.

About the recent pact

  • The pact covers cooperation on a wide range of issues, including mutual military support and unspecified technological assistance.
  • The partnership also aims to develop economic ties, which is crucial for North Korea due to various international sanctions.
  • Article 4 of the pact states that both countries will cooperate to provide immediate military assistance without delay, in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and the laws of the DPRK (North Korea) and the Russian Federation if either faces armed aggression.
    • Article 51 of the United Nations Charter recognizes a UN member state’s right to self-defense.

Implications and responses

  • The pact could lead to closer cooperation in weapons production, with North Korea manufacturing more munitions for Russia and Russia providing more high-end assistance to North Korea.
  • For South Korea and Japan, this treaty is likely to be seen as a direct security threat, prompting both countries to strengthen their defenses and reconsider their security policies.
    • Japan has already abandoned its long-standing pacifist foreign policy and is building its military might.
    • South Korea convened an emergency meeting of its national security council in response and indicated it might consider sending arms to Ukraine.
    • Both South Korea and Japan are likely to cement their alliance with the United States further.
  • The Russia-North Korea pact could encourage similar partnerships elsewhere, most notably with Iran.
  • China might be wary of Russia’s growing military collaboration with North Korea, which could undermine its near-exclusive geopolitical influence over Pyongyang.

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