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Background of Russia-North Korea Cooperation

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While war continuing on Ukraine and military tension is rising in East Asia, President of Russia Vladimir Putin stated that he wanted to visit Kim Jong Un in the near future. According to North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in 28th of January 2024, this visit might be a tangible sign of rising cooperation between these two countries.[1]

According to KCNA’s report, Putin thanked Kim for the invitation of visiting Pyongyang and promised that he will be going there “in near future.” According to Russia State News Agency TASS, Kremlin’s point man Dmitry Peskov said that his visit is still being discussed in diplomatic canals and the date of visit will be announced later. At the same time in 30th of January 2024 North Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Choe Son Hui met with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov and Putin in Moscow for discussing topics related to peace and security in Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. At the meeting, the parties stated that “there is a strong will to defend the fundamental interests of the two countries and to further strengthen strategic and tactical cooperation.”[2]

Putin’s visit to Pyongyang will be a return visit to Kim’s visit in September 2023. North Korea’s leader visited Russia’s Northeast Region with his armoured train that he visited several facilities which includes war plane factory and rocket launch facility. In this visit, Kim praised Moscow withstanding against hegemonic powers in Ukrainian war and Putin underline his intention to helping North Korea in developing space and satellite programs.[3]

These developments show that diplomatic relations between Russia and Korea is deepening. The mutual visits between leaders, notifies support on strategic and tactical cooperation with increasing will.

Signs of increased Russian-North Korean cooperation are also seen in Ukraine. According to the United States Department of Defence, Russia has fired North Korean-made missiles at targets in Ukraine twice in the last month. South Korean Intelligence reported that Pyongyang provided Moscow with more than one million artillery shells that could be used in the invasion of Ukraine.[4]

Rumours that Pyongyang is supplying Moscow with ammunition that can be used in the war in Ukraine show that cooperation between the two countries is developing not only at the diplomatic but also at the military level. Space and satellite programs, in which Putin expressed his intention to help Kim, can be considered a sign of cooperation in the field of science and technology. This highlights a potential area for North Korea to develop space technologies.

According to the West, Moscow could support Pyongyang in developing a nuclear-capable missile program that could threaten not only its East Asian neighbours but also the United States, with intercontinental ballistic missiles. As a matter of day, Kim draws an increasingly harsh line against South Korea and says that Pyongyang will no longer seek reconciliation and unification with Seoul. It is also known that in response to US retaliatory moves, Kim ordered the army and civil defence sectors to accelerate war preparations.[5]

Russia’s potential to provide technology and expertise to North Korea and North Korea’s sharpening South Korea policy are seen as key factors that may affect regional security dynamics. In addition, the West points to the possibility of Russia supporting North Korea and contributing to a nuclear-capable missile program that could threaten the United States.

At the last People’s Assembly meeting in Pyongyang, Kim described South Korea as his country’s “main unchanging enemy” and called the unification monument in Pyongyang “an eyesore” and said it should be demolished.[6]

North Korea’s increasingly harsh policy towards South Korea, led by Kim Jong Un, creates concern for regional stability. On the other hand, North Korea’s acceleration of war preparations against US retaliation may increase tension in the region. Kim’s demand for the demolition of a unification monument in Pyongyang has once again revealed the political and ideological tensions on the Korean Peninsula. This situation shows that the relations between South Korea and North Korea have come to the point of complete rupture.

Both North Korea and Russia are subject to a common foreign policy production process in terms of anti-Westernism and competing with the “rules-based liberal international order” established on the basis of the USA after the Cold War. At the same time, Russia is the target of Western sanctions due to Ukraine War and North Korea is the target of Western sanctions due to its nuclear weapons tests, and they are isolated from the global system.

On the other hand, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) had an influence on the establishment of North Korea. There are both historical ties and ideological closeness between the two states. This brings about Moscow-Pyongyang rapprochement. Both North Korea and Russia see the war in Ukraine as a war against the West and think that a victory for Moscow would mean a defeat for the West. This causes Pyongyang to be conjunctural positioned next to Russia.

As a result, it can be said that there are many grounds for cooperation between these two actors in their anti-Western stance. Moreover, it can be said that Moscow and Pyongyang will increase their alliance relations within the framework of the global conjuncture and developments.


[1]   “Russia’s Putin to Visit North Korea Soon, State Media Says”, Cable News Network World, https://edition.cnn.com/2024/01/22/asia/putin-to-visit-north-korea-intl-hnk/index.html, (Access Date: 01.02.2024).

[2] “Putin Willing to Visit Pyongyang Soon, North Korea Says”, Reuters, https://www.reuters.com/world/putin-showed-intention-visit-pyongyang-soon-north-korea-says-2024-01-20/, (Access Date: 01.02.2024).

[3] “Putin Willing to Visit North Korea at ‘Early Date,’ Pyongyang Says”, Politico, https://www.politico.eu/article/russia-vladimir-putin-visit-north-korea-early-date-pyongyang-choe-son-hui/, (Access Date: 01.02.2024).

[4] “Russia’s Putin to Visit North Korea Soon, State Media Says”, Cable News Network World, https://edition.cnn.com/2024/01/22/asia/putin-to-visit-north-korea-intl-hnk/index.html, (Access Date: 01.02.2024).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan GÜLTEN
Zeki Talustan Gülten graduated from Yalova University, Faculty of Economics and Administrative Sciences, Department of International Relations in 2021 with his graduation thesis titled "American Foreign Policy" and from Anadolu University, Open Education Faculty, Department of Foreign Trade in 2023. Gülten, who is currently pursuing her Master's Degree with Thesis at Marmara University Institute of Social Sciences, Department of International Relations, was a student at the Faculty of International and Political Studies at Lodz University for a semester within the framework of the Erasmus+ program during her undergraduate education. Working as an Asia-Pacific Research Assistant at ANKASAM, Gülten's main areas of interest are American Foreign Policy, Asia-Pacific and International Law. Gülten is fluent in English.