Putin and Kim Forge Mutual Defense Pact Amid Rising Global Tensions

Feature and Cover Putin and Kim Forge Mutual Defense Pact Amid Rising Global Tensions

Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un have formalized an agreement ensuring mutual assistance between Russia and North Korea in the event of aggression against either nation. This announcement came after Putin’s elaborate visit to Pyongyang, his first since 2000. Kim Jong Un remarked that this agreement elevates their relationship to “a new, high level of alliance.”

This burgeoning partnership has caused concern in the West and could have significant global implications. Analysts suggest that this defense pact might lead Moscow to support Pyongyang in future conflicts on the Korean peninsula, while North Korea could potentially aid Russia in its war in Ukraine.

Kim has been accused of supplying Russia with weapons, while Putin is suspected of providing North Korea with space technology beneficial to its missile program. The last meeting between the two leaders was in Russia in September. On Wednesday, they signed a “comprehensive partnership agreement” including a clause for “mutual assistance in the event of aggression” against either country. However, Putin did not specify what constitutes aggression.

Putin has faced setbacks in Ukraine, particularly with dwindling weapon supplies. During Kim’s recent visit to Russia, they discussed military cooperation, and there is growing evidence of North Korean missiles being used by Russia in Ukraine. Meanwhile, NATO countries have recently allowed Ukraine to use Western weapons on Russian soil, a move that Kyiv hopes will shift the conflict in its favor.

Putin warned of repercussions and has considered arming Western adversaries with long-range weapons, something North Korea is developing. He criticized the West’s decision, calling it “a gross violation” of international restrictions. He also condemned Western sanctions on Russia and North Korea, stating that they “do not tolerate the language of blackmail and diktat” and would resist the West’s “sanctions strangling” to maintain “hegemony.” Kim praised the treaty, calling it a historic moment and expressed “full support and solidarity” for Russia in its war in Ukraine.

The treaty is likely to provoke South Korea, which had warned Russia against excessively favoring North Korea. South Korean National Security Adviser Chang Ho-jin urged Moscow to consider which Korean nation would be more important post-war. Rachel Lee of the Stimson Center highlighted the significant global implications of this treaty, suggesting it could exacerbate weapons proliferation if North Korea continues supplying weapons to Russia and Russia provides advanced military technology to North Korea. Chad O’Carroll of NK News speculated that the agreement could lead to North Korean soldiers assisting Russia in Ukraine.

Putin’s visit began with a late arrival in Pyongyang, where he was greeted warmly by Kim and given a red carpet welcome. North Korean state media showed the capital brightly lit, a stark contrast to the country’s usual electricity shortages. The welcome ceremony featured choreographed displays of devotion and North Korean propaganda. Putin’s motorcade was greeted by people waving Russian flags and bouquets, chanting “welcome Putin” and “North Korea Russia friendship.”

At Kim Il Sung Square, a large crowd awaited Putin’s arrival, cheering and releasing balloons as he stepped out of his car. Putin and Kim walked past soldiers on white stallions, a nod to Kim’s grandfather’s historic role. They reviewed soldiers while standing in front of large portraits of themselves.

Later, Putin attended a gala concert and state banquet featuring dishes like cod shaped like a white flower, Korean noodles, and chicken soup with ginseng and pumpkin. Before leaving for Vietnam, Putin and Kim exchanged gifts. Putin gave Kim a second luxury Aurus car, a ceremonial admiral’s dagger, and a tea set, while Kim presented works of art featuring Putin’s likeness.

Putin’s previous visit to Pyongyang in 2000 was shortly after he took power and met Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. North Korea’s economy has worsened under international sanctions. Observers believe Kim Jong Un has sought critical aid, such as food, fuel, foreign currency, and technology, from Russia. In the Soviet era, Russia significantly supported the Kim family regime. During Kim’s visit to Russia, Putin promised to help North Korea develop satellites following several failed launches. The U.S. believes North Korea’s satellite program aims to enhance its ballistic missile capabilities due to similar technology.

Both leaders stand to gain diplomatically from their partnership. They are “trying to reduce the pain of international sanctions by creating an alternate network of friends and partners beyond the reach of U.S. sanctions,” noted Jeffrey Lewis from the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. This effort supports the “multipolar” worldview promoted by Russia, China, and other states as an alternative to the U.S.-led international order.

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