Home News Russia’s defense pact with North Korea is a prescient move for Asia

Russia’s defense pact with North Korea is a prescient move for Asia


With ballistic missiles regularly flying nearby, Japan and South Korea need little reminder of the threat posed to their neighbors by North Korea and its nuclear arsenal. But President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia’s visit to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, this week to shockingly revive a Cold War-era mutual defense pact has ratcheted up the pressure on some of the hermit kingdom’s closest neighbors.

Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly agreed that if one country were to fall into a state of war, the other would “provide all means of military and other assistance without delay.” text North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency announced the latest news on the agreement on Thursday.

Analysts are still poring over the text of the agreement to understand how broad its scope is, both in response to Putin’s war in Ukraine and in a future conflict on the Korean Peninsula. But the commitment, and signs that Russia might help North Korea continue to develop its nuclear capabilities, unsettle officials in Tokyo and Seoul.

Kim Jong-un has become increasingly hostile to South Korea, abandoning this year his long-standing goal of unification with the country, even though it seemed unlikely at the time. He now describes South Korea as an enemy. Must be conqueredNorth Korea is willing to launch a nuclear war if necessary, and has frequently tested ballistic missiles at Japan to demonstrate its provocative stance toward its former colonizer.

Analysts say Kim’s alliance with Putin will raise tensions in Northeast Asia by exacerbating the divide between the democratic partnership of the United States, South Korea and Japan and the authoritarian camp of Russia, North Korea and China.

“This is bad news for the international community’s efforts to stop North Korea from developing nuclear weapons and missile technology,” said Koh Yu-hwan, former president of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Putin, whose long war in Ukraine has deepened his relationship with Kim Jong Un, has sought and obtained Soviet-grade munitions from Pyongyang, according to U.S. and South Korean officials — charges both Moscow and Pyongyang deny.

The war in Ukraine has become a major hidden danger in the region. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida once said: “Today’s Ukraine may be tomorrow’s East Asia.” often explain.

Officials in Seoul and Tokyo were quick to point out that if Russia provided any military technology to North Korea it would be in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions it had previously signed.

“President Putin has not ruled out military-technical cooperation with North Korea, and we express serious concern about that,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, chief cabinet secretary to Kishida, told a news conference in Tokyo.

In some ways, the meeting, with both authoritarian leaders desperate to secure outside support, was something of an “I told you so” moment for the United States and its Asian allies, who have been preparing in recent years for growing security challenges from North Korea and China, sometimes facing domestic political resistance in doing so.

Japan has vowed to increase Defense Budget and Under its pacifist constitutional framework, its actions are restrictedinclude Buy more fighter jets and Tomahawk missiles. back Years of cold relationship, Mr. Kishida and President Yoon Seok-yeol South Korea agreed to strengthen bilateral ties and establish a closer trilateral partnership with the United States to Establishing mutual security arrangementsAccording to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, the three countries have participated in more than 60 trilateral diplomatic meetings, military exercises and intelligence sharing over the past year.

“I think it shows how prescient President Biden, President Kishida and President Yoon were that they expended their political capital,” U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said in an interview. “It was prescient not only from a political perspective, but also from a strategic perspective because now Russia and North Korea” may be jointly developing weapons.

Amid this tense global situation, North Korea and Russia have revived their Cold War-era mutual defense commitment, alarming other countries in the region.

“I think what’s more dangerous is that this suggests that the relationship may be more long-term than we initially thought, and may be more strategic than transactional,” said Bruce Klingner, a senior fellow for Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “We don’t know how far the two countries will go in supporting each other.”

At the very least, it shows that Russia is willing to flagrantly ignore UN sanctions.

“It wasn’t that long ago that Russia supported U.N. sanctions against North Korea,” said James DJ Brown, a professor of political science at Temple University’s Tokyo campus who specializes in Russia’s relations with East Asia. “So this confirms that not only is Russia not enforcing the sanctions itself, but it’s actively undermining them and will help North Korea evade them.”

In Seoul, the meeting between Putin and Kim is likely to reignite debate over whether South Korea should consider possessing nuclear weapons and begin speculation about what might happen if Donald Trump is re-elected as U.S. president.

“South Korea should now conduct a fundamental review of its current security policy, which relies almost entirely on the U.S. nuclear umbrella to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat,” said Chung Sang-chang, director of the Center for Korean Peninsula Strategy Studies at the Sejong Institute.

On the one hand, Russia’s growing ties with North Korea could help solidify the recently restored relationship between Tokyo and Seoul and their trilateral cooperation with the U.S. Many analysts worry that a change of government in the U.S. or North Korea could have adverse effects on North Korea. South Korea could jeopardize these relationships. (Japan is considered relatively stable.

“To some extent, this provides a rationale for the continuation of trilateralism if a Trump administration or progressives emerge in South Korea,” said Jeffrey Hornung, a senior political analyst specializing in Japan at the RAND Corporation in Washington. “While it doesn’t change what Seoul or Tokyo should do, it certainly adds new factors they must consider.”

But the Hankyoreh, a left-wing daily in Seoul, questioned the legitimacy of the close cooperation among the United States, Japan and South Korea in an editorial, saying that such cooperation has led South Korea to “continued conflicts with China and Russia, two countries that have great influence on the political situation on the Korean Peninsula. It is time to reflect on whether this distorted diplomatic approach is conducive to the development of relations between North Korea and Russia.”

Despite the drama in Pyongyang this week, some analysts say the biggest concern in the region remains China’s growing military ambitions.

“Maritime buildup in the East China Sea, South China Sea, space and cyber, and multi-domain warfare capabilities — these justify our new policy,” said Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat and special adviser at the Canon Institute for Global Affairs in Tokyo. He said Putin’s visit to North Korea was “just another example of the threat in Asia, not the biggest one.”

Notoya Kiyuko I contributed to coverage from Tokyo.

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