Russian President Vladimir Putin may pay a reciprocal visit to North Korea to crow about the “unbreakable strategic partnership” between Moscow and Pyongyang, on the back of the united front that both had pledged against democracies spanning from Asia to Europe.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday that Putin was set to visit the North. The report came as Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that an official visit was not yet “on the agenda,” according to Russia’s official news agency, Tass, on Thursday.
Russian state media first reported on Kim Jong Un’s invitation to Putin at the banquet that was held after the landmark summit between the two leaders in the Russian Far East on late Wednesday. The reports did not indicate Putin’s response.
But the Korean Central News Agency said on Thursday: “Putin accepted the invitation with pleasure and reaffirmed his will to invariably carry forward the history and tradition of the Russia-DPRK friendship.” The agency said Kim “courteously invited Putin to visit the DPRK at a convenient time”, referring to North Korea by its formal name.
Seoul on Thursday slammed both Pyongyang and Moscow, expressing its “deep concern” over the two’s possible military cooperation and potential ammunition deal.
“Based on our thorough analysis, we believe the two nations are actively pursuing some form of military agreement,” South Korea’s Unification Minister, Kim Yong-ho, told reporters. “Russia and North Korea must stop their self-imposed decline into further isolation and regression, and comply with international norms, including those set by the Security Council resolutions”.
Regardless of Seoul’s fury, Kim had described his ties with Putin as “an unbreakable strategic partnership” during the banquet, saying that his visit to Russia “will be an important step in transforming the DPRK-Russia relationship”, according to South Korean media, including Yonhap. Kim added that the two discussed the political situation on the Korean Peninsula as well as Europe, sending a fresh warning to democracies both in Asia and Europe.
The cementing of ties between the two nations may disrupt the U.S.’s efforts in curbing Russia’s aggression on Ukraine, potentially prolonging the war, and containing North Korea’s nuclear pursuits to enhance nuclear capabilities.
Kim and Putin held a rare summit at the symbol of Russia’s space prowess Wednesday, where both sides vowed to boost their comprehensive cooperation, from covering the economy to military. While the two leaders did not publicly comment on any ammunition deal, the Kremlin said that it would cooperate with North Korea in “sensitive areas that can’t be disclosed,” raising suspicions that Pyongyang may provide ammunition to Russia.
“As we have warned publicly, arms negotiations between Russia and the DPRK are actively advancing,” U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said last week. “We have information that Kim Jong Un expects these discussions to continue, to include leader-level diplomatic engagement in Russia.”
Remarks from Kim in Russia also lent weight to such concerns, which may be interpreted as targeting Ukraine, as well as allies which support the country amid Russia’s aggression.
“I am confident that the Russian army and people will be victorious against the evils,” Kim said. The Russian army would “punish the evil aggressors that seek hegemony and nurture expansionist fantasies.”
No joint statement was released after the summit, but a possible arms deal between the two is still posing concerns to allies. Putin’s pledge to help Kim advance the North’s satellite technology was a sign of a potential bilateral deal, according to experts.
The diplomatic rhetoric publicized throughout the summit shows that “any deal is possible between North Korea and Russia,” said Cha Du-hyeogn, South Korea’s former presidential secretary for crisis information who is now a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.
“The message being conveyed is clear: it is communicating externally that if the allies persist to press North Korea and Russia, then they’re capable of inking dangerous deals,” Cha pointed out “This serves as a warning for the international community to acknowledge North Korea’s status as a nuclear state, and Russia’s annexation of parts of Ukraine.
“Concurrently, it’s also aimed at ensuring their internal solidarity, to show that they’re not isolated. And essentially, the ultimate goal is to send a message to their domestic audience of the importance of endurance and unity during challenging times.”
Edited by Elaine Chan and Mike Firn.