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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Norfolk

Russia and North Korea sign partnership deal, strongest alliance since Cold War

By Samantha Norfolk

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a document on June 19, pledging mutual assistance if either country is attacked.

Putin visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years, causing concern for the U.S. and its allies. The calculated partnership would transfer military technology to Pyongyang in exchange for munitions aid to Moscow to further its advancement in Ukraine. The kind of aid -- whether materiel, troop, or other forms of aid -- was not directly expressed in the agreement.

Putin’s Visit

During Putin’s visit, Kim said the pair have a “fiery friendship” and that the new treaty is the “strongest ever treaty,” pushing the relationship up to an alliance. Kim vowed to fully support Russia’s efforts in Ukraine. Putin, echoing Kim’s enthusiasm, called it a “breakthrough document.”

Kim met Putin at the airport, where the pair shook hands, hugged twice, and rode in a limousine together. Putin was welcomed in a ceremony in the city’s main square where tens of thousands of people gathered. The crowd, including children with balloons, wore t-shirts of the two country’s colors -- red, white, and blue -- while chanting “Welcome Putin” and waving flags.

Kim introduced Putin to key members of his leadership, including Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui. Putin was also introduced to top aid and ruling party secretary Jo Yong Won, and his sister, Kim Yo Jong.

The two leaders exchanged gifts in Pyongyang. Putin presented Kim with a Russian-made Aurus limousine. The duo took turns driving each other around in the limo. Putin also gifted Kim with a tea set and a naval officer’s dagger. Kim gave Putin artwork depicting the Russian leader, along with two Pungsan dogs. Pungsan dogs are a hunting breed native to the northern region of North Korea.

Putin and Kim later attended a concert that featured marching soldiers, weapons-throwing, and dancing. The Russian leader also visited the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity and gave a Trinity icon to the Orthodox Church.  

The Kremlin’s website said the leaders also signed an agreement to build a road bridge on their border, and another on cooperation in medical education, science, and health care. Putin also said Russia would help in developing military-technology cooperation with North Korea, according to the Russian News Agency website.

What does this mean for the U.S.?

Since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, the U.S. has been very vocal about its support and financial involvement in Ukraine. As of May 2024, the U.S. has sent $175 billion, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The U.S. and South Korean officials have accused North Korea of providing Russia with artillery, missiles, and other military equipment in exchange for military technologies and aid. On Tuesday, a U.S. State Department spokesperson said Washington has seen the illegal transfer of ballistic missiles and thousands of containers of munition to aid Russia in Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.

U.N. Sanctions of North Korea

North Korea is under heavy U.N. Security Council Sanctions over its weapons program. These sanctions include banning the trade of arms and military equipment, vehicles, industrial machinery, metal, and dual-use technologies; natural gas imports; banning the import of certain luxury items; and banning the export of electrical equipment, coal, minerals, food, other agricultural products, wood, textiles, and stones, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. Russia also faced sanctions by the U.S. and its Western partners over the invasion of Ukraine.

Although the U.S. and South Korea have accused North Korea of providing Russia with military aid in exchange for military technology, both Pyongyang and Moscow have denied these accusations. The U.S. has frequently tried to impose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea, to stop its nuclear arsenal advancements, but has been continuously blocked by Russia.

How far back does the North Korean and Russian Alliance go?

The history between North Korea and Russia goes back to World War II when the former Soviet army fought the Japanese military on the Korean Peninsula. Moscow also supported Pyongyang during the Korean War.

In 1961, North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty that would allow Moscow’s military to interfere if North Korea came under attack. This treaty was outmoded after the fall of the USSR but, in 2000, was replaced by a treaty that offered weaker security certainty.

Although the results of the summit have not yet transgressed, the U.S. National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communication, John Kirby, said Thursday, that the U.S. has been strengthening its allies, alliances, and partnerships throughout the Indo-Pacific region. He added, “…including [strengthening allies with] the historic trilateral agreement between the Republic of Korea and Japan and the United States…that effort will continue to put us in the best possible position to be able to thwart any threats and challenges, not just on the Korean Peninsula but elsewhere in the region.”





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