North Korea is a very dangerous nuclear power on both global and regional levels.  This is because Pyongyang, on the one hand, develops its nuclear power, and on the other hand, it conducts nuclear drills and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) tests. 2022 was the year in which North Korea conducted the most ICBM tests.[ii]
Last year was the year when North Korea reached its highest threat level in the international arena. In fact, in 2022, Pyongyang increased its nuclear power more than ever before and conducted dozens of short and long-range intercontinental ballistic missile tests. Moreover, it adopted the law declaring itself as a nuclear power, causing security concerns both in the Asia-Pacific region and at the global level to rise to the highest level.
In this context, North Korean President Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia on 12 September 2023 for a comprehensive meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is quite significant[iii] . This meeting took place at the Vostochny Spaceport in the Amur region of Russia. [iv]
On 19 September 2023, North Korea announced that Kim Jong Un had returned from a trip to Russia, where he deepened “comradely friendship and friendly ties” with Vladimir Putin. During Kim’s six-day visit to Russia, his longest trip abroad as leader, the two countries discussed strengthening defence ties. However, no specific steps were announced by either state.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim’s train crossed the border river on the morning of 18 September 2023, but did not say whether it went to the capital Pyongyang or elsewhere in the country Kim’s several visits to munitions factories before travelling to Russia were interpreted as checking the weapons to be sent to Russia[vi]
At this point, it is often claimed that Kim will provide ammunition to replenish Russia’s depleted inventory in the second year of the war in Ukraine. In return, Russia is said to provide North Korea with technologies to modernise its nuclear weapons stockpiles. On the other hand, it is also rumoured that Kim will receive food and economic aid due to Russia’s reluctance to share its sensitive and high-tech weapons with other countries [vii]
North Korea already utilises weapons technology from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in its arms industry. Moreover, Putin’s failure to achieve the desired results in the war in Ukraine and Ukraine’s offensive may mean that Russia may seek arms assistance from North Korea in order to continue this war more easily.
In conclusion, it can be said that Kim aims to strengthen his nuclear arsenal by claiming that the United States of America (USA) has intensified its military threats. This strengthens the allegations of arms trade between Russia and North Korea. If this arms build-up materialises, it could have a game-changing effect on the Russia-Ukraine War. On the other hand, this situation may also significantly increase the arms race in the region.
[i] “Is it Time to Accept North Korea is a Nuclear Power?”, Cable News Network World, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/10/28/asia/north-korea-nuclear-threat-solution-analysis-intl-hnk/index.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 24.07.2023).
[ii] “North Korea Resumes Launching Missile Tests. How Worried Should We Be?”, The Time, https://time.com/6266737/north-korea-ballistic-missile-tests-2023/, (Erişim Tarihi: 24.07.2023).
[iii] “North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Russia Amid U.S. Warnings not to Sell Arms”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/north-koreas-kim-jong-un-russia-amid-us-warnings-not-sell-arms-2023-09-12/, (Erişim Tarihi: 13.09.2023).
[iv] “Kim and Putin Meet at Russian Spaceport for Possible Arms Talks”, NBC News, https://www.nbcnews.com/, (Erişim Tarihi: 19.09.2023).
[v] “North Korea Says Kim Jong Un is Back Home From Russia, Where He Deepened ‘Comradely’ Ties With Putin”, Associated Press News, https://apnews.com/article/north-korea-kim-russia-putin-4a5172896e5a060a96d3834a1ad8d37d, (Erişim Tarihi: 19.09.2023).
[vi] “North Korea Says Kim Jong Un is Back Home from Russia”, Australian Broadcasting Corporatio News Corporation, https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/north-korea-kim-jong-back-home-russia-deepened-103298931, (Erişim Tarihi: 19.09.2023).
[vii] “North Korea Says Kim Jong Un is Back Home From Russia, Where He Deepened ‘Comradely’ Ties With Putin”, Associated Press News, https://apnews.com/article/north-korea-kim-russia-putin-4a5172896e5a060a96d3834a1ad8d37d, (Erişim Tarihi: 19.09.2023).