Russia’s Putin arrives in Vietnam after signing a defense pact with North Korea

Russian President Vladimir Putin will begin a state visit to Vietnam on Thursday, a day after signing a mutual defense pact with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who offered his “full support” to Ukraine.

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Putin and Kim signed a strategic pact during a summit in Pyongyang, promising to come to each other’s aid if they were attacked.

Washington and its allies accuse North Korea of ​​supplying ammunition and missiles to Russia over the war in Ukraine, and the deal fueled fears of more deliveries.

The US State Department said deepening ties between Russia and North Korea was “of great importance,” while a top Ukrainian official accused Pyongyang of complicity in the “mass murder of Ukrainians” in Moscow.

In his first visit to the isolated North in 24 years, Putin said on Wednesday that he would not rule out “military-technical cooperation” with Pyongyang, which like Moscow is under heavy international sanctions.

“Today we fight together against the hegemonism and neo-colonial practices of the United States and its satellite states,” Putin said.

The two countries have been allies since North Korea’s creation after World War II and have grown even closer since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, which isolated Putin on the world stage.

Kim called Putin the “dearest friend of the Korean people” and pledged his “full support and solidarity” over the war in Ukraine, which has led to a series of UN sanctions on Moscow.

Putin thanked his host – whose country has been under a UN sanctions regime since 2006 over its banned weapons programs – and said Moscow appreciated the “consistent and unwavering” support.

Putin called for a review of U.N. sanctions on North Korea and said the two countries would not submit to Western “blackmail.”

Commenting on the Pyongyang visit, a US State Department spokesperson said no country should “give Mr. Putin a platform to further his war of aggression against Ukraine.”

“Deepening cooperation between Russia and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a trend that should be of great interest to all those interested in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” the spokesperson said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told AFP that North Korea was instigating Russia’s “mass murder of Ukrainians”, and called for greater international isolation of both countries.

Trade and weapons

Putin received an enthusiastic welcome in the North Korean capital, hugged by Kim as he stepped off his plane and greeted by cheering crowds, synchronized dancers and waving children.

His reception is likely to be more reserved in Vietnam, a major global manufacturing center that has carefully hedged its foreign policy position for years, hoping to be friends with everyone but beholden to no one.

In particular, the country has sought to avoid taking sides in the growing rivalry between the US and China, even as both superpowers seek to strengthen their influence in Southeast Asia.

Putin will meet key Vietnamese leaders on Thursday, including newly installed President To Lam and Nguyen Phu Trong, the powerful general secretary of the ruling Communist Party.

US President Joe Biden visited Hanoi in September to promote ties as his administration seeks to build Vietnam as an alternative supplier of key high-tech components to reduce US dependence on China.

Beijing quickly followed suit, with President Xi Jinping making his own state visit just three months later.

Putin landed in Hanoi around 2am (7pm GMT Wednesday) and will begin his engagement at noon with a meeting with his counterpart To Lam.

Russian officials say Putin’s visit will focus on economic, education and energy issues.

Trade between the two countries amounted to just $3.5 billion in 2022 – a small share of Vietnam’s $175 billion trade with China and $123 billion with the United States.

But observers say Ukraine-defense cooperation is likely on the table.

Russia and Vietnam have close ties dating back to the 1950s, and for decades Moscow was Hanoi’s largest arms supplier.

Carl Thayer, professor emeritus of politics at Australia’s University of New South Wales, said Vietnam has halted “major” military purchases since 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Russia and Vietnam have a mutual interest in resuming arms sales, but Vietnam is hampered by the threat of US sanctions,” he told AFP.


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