N Korea, Russia sign mutual defence deal as Kim pledges support on Ukraine

AFP , AP , Wednesday 19 Jun 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a new partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country is attacked, during a Wednesday summit that came as both face escalating standoffs with the West.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea s leader Kim Jong Un leave the hall during their meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. AP

 

The new deal could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Putin said that he does not rule out "military-technical cooperation" with North Korea, as he visited Pyongyang, which the West suspects is supplying Moscow with arms to use in Ukraine.

"The Russian Federation does not rule out military-technical cooperation with the DPRK in connection with the treaty that was signed today," Putin said, after signing a strategic agreement with North Korea's Kim Jong Un.

Putin’s visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years, as the U.S. and its allies express growing concerns over an arms arrangement in which the country provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

The details of the partnership deal were not immediately clear, but both leaders described it as a major upgrade of their ties.

Kim said that the deal was the “strongest ever treaty” between the two nations, putting the relationship at the level of an alliance, and vowed full support for Russia's war in Ukraine. Putin said that it was a “breakthough document” reflecting shared desire to move relations to a higher level.

Putin said that security and international issues took up a large part of the talks with Kim, according to Russian state media. 

"Russia and Korea have an independent foreign policy and do not tolerate the language of blackmail and dictate," Putin said. "We will continue to counter the practice of sanctions strangling as an instrument that the West has grown used to using with the aim of keeping its hegemony in politics, economics and other spheres."

He also said  that UN sanctions on the North Korean regime should be "reviewed".

"I am noting that the indefinite restrictive regime inspired by the US and its allies at the UN Security Council towards the DPRK should be reviewed," Putin said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said a mutual assistance treaty signed with Russia was "defensive" in nature, praising President Vladimir Putin as the "dearest friend of the Korean people".

"This powerful treaty represents... nothing less than a truly constructive, forward-looking, exclusively peace-loving and defensive document designed to protect and defend the fundamental interests of the peoples of the two countries," Kim was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies.

Russia and North Korea also signed agreements on cooperation in the fields of healthcare, medical education, and science, Russian state media reported, citing the Kremlin's website.

Putin was met upon his nighttime arrival by Kim, who shook his hands, hugged him twice and rode with him from the airport in a limousine in a huge motorcade that rolled through the capital’s brightly illuminated streets, where buildings were decorated with giant Russian flags and portraits of Putin.

After spending the rest of the night at a state guest house, Putin attended a lavish welcoming ceremony at the city’s main square, where he and Kim saluted an honor guard and walked across a red carpet.

As the talks began, Putin thanked Kim for North Korea’s support for his war in Ukraine, part of what he said was a “fight against the imperialist hegemonistic policies of the U.S. and its satellites against the Russian Federation.”

Putin hailed ties that he traced back to the Soviet army fighting the Japanese military on the Korean Peninsula in the closing moments of World War II, and Moscow’s support for Pyongyang during the Korean War.

Kim said Moscow and Pyongyang's “fiery friendship” is now even closer than during Soviet times, and promised “full support and solidarity to the Russian government, army and people in carrying out the special military operation in Ukraine to protect sovereignty, security interests and territorial integrity.”

North Korea is under heavy U.N. Security Council sanctions over its weapons program, while Russia also faces sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.

U.S. and South Korean officials accuse the North of providing Russia with artillery, missiles and other military equipment for use in Ukraine, possibly in return for key military technologies and aid. Both Pyongyang and Moscow deny accusations about North Korean weapons transfers, which would violate multiple U.N. Security Council sanctions that Russia previously endorsed.

Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Pyongyang that the two leaders exchanged gifts after the talks. Putin presented Kim with a Russian-made Aurus limo and other gifts, including a tea set and a naval officer’s dagger. Ushakov said that Kim's presents to Putin included artworks depicting the Russian leader.

Russia media said earlier that Kim will host a reception, and Putin is expected to leave Wednesday evening for Vietnam.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Putin’s visit to North Korea illustrates how Russia tries, “in desperation, to develop and to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine.”

 

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