The international isolation North Korea and Russia face is one of many things that bring both countries together. Both countries face international sanctions, difficult economic situations, and a common goal of gaining an advantage over their Western rivals. One of the most recent developments between North Korea and Russia includes a future summit between leaders Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin respectively. Ties between both countries date back to the Cold War, but have now taken on significant importance given the current geopolitical landscape.
In late August, the Biden administration announced that “North Korea and Russia are “actively advancing” high-level talks for additional weapons” based on US intelligence reports. These weapons are likely to aid Russia’s war in Ukraine. A potential deal would also include “the provision of raw materials that could help boost Russia’s military manufacturing capability,” according to Politico.
The date for the summit between the two leaders is not confirmed, but a report from the Times points to a trip by train to Vladivostok where both leaders will meet. Other topics of discussion include exchange of technologies to assist each other and potential joint military exercises.
According to Reuters, both countries have called for “closer military ties but North Korea has denied having any “arms dealings” with Russia.”
According to Pavel Felgenhauer, a military analyst, the advantage North Korea has that attracts Russia is that the country still holds “[Cold War era weapon] production, and it has ordinance of the same Soviet/Russian calibres copycats, so that can actually provide Russia with things that the Russian military needs on the front [lines in Ukraine].”
Kim Jong Un would be seeking “aid shipments, prestige and military technology” given the fact that the country has had its borders closed since early 2020, as well as improving its economic situation.
Though the ultimate success of these communications and possible summits is yet to be seen, it can be concluded that these are meant to send a signal to the United States and its partners that both countries can compete against the West. It is important to mention that North Korea faces international sanctions over its nuclear weapons program, and any assistance it provides to other countries will likely result in more sanctions. North Korea’s continuation of the program will lead to a higher possibility of conflict not only in its home region, but also to those it supplies weapons to. To avoid further conflict escalation, North Korea and Western parties must return to the negotiation table to reach an agreement on denuclearization. Such attempts over the past years made progress but ultimately failed.
If all parties involved can uphold their promises and respect international norms pertaining to nuclear weapons, there will be more cooperation as a whole. Otherwise, in the case of North Korea, it will seek to expand its nuclear weapon program and turn to its allies for assistance, complicating efforts to promote international security and peace.
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