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Kim Jong Un’s Visit to Russia and Moscow-Pyongyang Cooperation

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North Korea has become largely isolated in the international arena, both because of its isolation from the global system and because it has adopted a stance against the West, the United States (US) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This has led to North Korea being frequently associated with unlawful activities. Allegations that Pyongyang secretly supplied arms to Moscow during the Russian-Ukrainian War are among the most controversial actions that North Korea has been implicated in.

In this context, North Korean President Kim Jong Un’s visit to Vladivostok on September 12, 2023 for a wide-ranging meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin is highly noteworthy.[1] It is known that Kim Jong-un was also accompanied by senior personnel of North Korea’s arms industry and important military officials.[2]

Considering that Kim doesn’t travel abroad frequently and has only left his country seven times during his 12 years in potency, four of which were to China, this visit becomes even more important.[3]

In addition to these, Russian authorities have said that the negotiations could include humanitarian aid to North Korea and UN Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang. On the other hand, US authorities have stated that arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are actively moving forward and that Kim and Putin will discuss providing Russia with weapons for the war in Ukraine. Russia’s TASS wire agency reported that Putin arrived in Vladivostok on Monday, September 11, 2023, where he will attend the plenary session of the Eastern Economic Forum, which will last until Wednesday, September 13, 2023. There has been no confirmation on the location of the meeting between Kim and Putin or whether Kim will attend the economic forum.

In the Western bloc, it is generally believed that Kim could offer artillery shells from his vast stockpile of weapons that could upgrade Russia’s capabilities in the short term, but questions about the quality of the munitions could limit the overall impact. Chang Ho-jin, South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to Russia, said that it would be in Moscow’s interest to take into account its international stance after the Ukraine conflict and to remember that it helped create the current non-proliferation regime, and that any military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang would be a violation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions. [4]

In addition to all these, it can be said that Pyongyang and Moscow have a close political relationship. This closeness also strengthens these claims. Both countries are currently close to each other in terms of foreign policy production due to their opposition to the Western-centered system and their marginalization by the international community. The fact that both states are trying to be isolated through sanctions is also an important factor in the formation of this closeness.

When the allegations were first made, Evgeny Prigojin, a Russian businessman and former leader of Wagner, called the claims that Pyongyang had supplied weapons to Wagner “speculation”. Prigojin said that North Korea had not made any arms deliveries to Russia for a long time. [5]

It can be said that this situation will lead to increased pressure on both Russia and North Korea. Because North Korea is perceived as a significant nuclear threat, especially by the Western states, the sanctions imposed on Russia may become tougher. On the other hand, during the Russia-Ukraine War, the US developed a discourse that countries that supported Moscow chose sides in the war. For this reason, the pressure on North Korea may increase due to the developments in Ukraine. In particular, the arms support provided to a group such as Wagner, which is heavily disputed by Western states, can be expected to harden the process of isolating Pyongyang.

As a result, it is known that Russia is facing many problems on the ground in the Ukraine War and these problems are increasing day by day. North Korea is an actor that threatens global and regional security due to its ballistic missile tests and the nuclear threat it poses. Due to this situation of Pyongyang, various exercises are being carried out in the Asia-Pacific region in partnership with the US, Japan and South Korea. At the same time, North Korea is able to overcome the pressure of sanctions imposed on it by the UNSC thanks to Russia. Therefore, it can be predicted that the parties are cooperating in the face of both global and regional challenges and will further this cooperation. Therefore, it is only natural that allegations of a secret arms supply between North Korea and Russia would come to the fore.


[1] “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: 12.09.2023).

[2] “Armored Train Carrying North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Crosses into Russia Ahead of Putin Meeting”, Cable News Network News, https://edition.cnn.com/2023/09/11/asia/kim-jong-un-north-korea-russia-meeting-intl-hnk/index.html, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[3] “North Korea’s Kim Jong Un in Russia Amid U.S. Warnings not to Sell Arms”, The Asahi Shimbun, https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/15003416, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

[4] “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: 12.09.2023).

[5] “Пригожин отверг заявления США о поставках оружия КНДР для ЧВК “Вагнер”, TACC, https://tass.ru/politika/16671043, (Erişim Tarihi: 12.09.2023).

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.