Russia – North Korea deal: a new geopolitical axis?
    New level ties

    ANALYTICS  20 June 2024 - 14:28

    Fuad Shahbazov

    On June 19, Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea for an official visit for the first time in 25 years. The official visit ramped up ties to a new level, pledging to help each other if either nation was attacked in a breakthrough new partnership announced by both leaders in Pyongyang.

    The mutual assistance pact signed during Vladimir Putin’s two-day visit appears aimed at Western democracies supporting Ukraine as it fends off invading Russian troops. The new strategic partnership will replace previous deals between Moscow and Pyongyang in 1961, 2000, and 2001. According to the Russian media, the deal would see the two countries provide mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties. It was part of a wide-ranging treaty covering everything from education to agriculture and tourism.

    Unlike Russia's other allies, like China, India, Iran, and Belarus, North Korea is one of the few countries that voiced unequivocal support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. In line with it, North Korea has supplied dozens of ballistic missiles and more than 11,000 containers of munitions to Russia for use in Ukraine, while Pyongyang has sought Russian food and energy aid and help with his country's space program. Despite reliable sources and reports, Russia and North Korea denied military partnership in the wake of the war in Ukraine. The US and South Korean officials accuse the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles, and other military equipment for use in Ukraine. For example, according to US intelligence reports, North Korea unlawfully transfer dozens of ballistic missiles and over 11,000 containers of munitions to aid Russia’s war effort.

    For Russia, Putin’s visit underscores the country’s greatest geopolitical weakness: diplomatic isolation. Since invading Ukraine, Russia has only been able to maintain substantive partnerships with a handful of states. Indeed, the pledge of mutual assistance is likely to further alarm Washington and its allies. It could presage not only more resounding support by North Korea for Russia's war in Ukraine but also greater support from Moscow in aiding North Korea.

    In recent years, Pyongyang significantly boosted its long-range ballistic missile production with frequent firing toward Japan and South Korea – two key Western allies in the region. In addition, North Korea threatens its neighbour Seoul and the US Navy forces deployed in the region with harsh consequences if they decide to pose a threat to its sovereignty. Therefore, North Korea is under heavy UN Security Council sanctions over its weapons program and, most recently, the space program.

    For North Korea, this summit is a testament to the country’s success at overcoming a robust regime of sanctions in order to develop North Korea's defence capabilities, to the point that it is not only a weapons manufacturer but now also an exporter supplying Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Indeed, Moscow’s interest in upgrading the partnership—Kim even called it an alliance—in large part stems from North Korea’s ability to serve as a force multiplier for Russia’s defence industrial base, which has been pushed into overdrive over the past two years.

    Undoubtedly, Russia as a partner is one of the most viable economic options that could foster its development and support against Western influence in its close vicinity. Moscow is a close ally that has attempted to convince the international community to pare back its measures against North Korea in recent years.

    Notwithstanding the West's criticism, the recent Putin-Kim deal is of particular importance for Moscow and Pyongyang in terms of countering a Western-led coalition. Although the success of such an alliance is arguable, the West continues to exert harsh pressure on both to keep Russia and North Korea isolated from the rest of the world.

    Caliber.Az

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