North Korea and Russia sign a historic military pact

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North Korea and Russia have agreed to provide each other with immediate military assistance in the event of armed aggression. This major development was announced by Pyongyang on Thursday after Russian President Vladimir Putin left following his visit. The recently signed ‘Treaty on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ revives a mutual defense agreement from the 1960s.

The treaty, signed on Wednesday by Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, represents one of Moscow’s most notable moves in Asia in recent years. Putin’s visit to North Korea follows his recent trip to China and his current visit to Vietnam.

Article 4 of the agreement states: “If either Party is confronted with an armed invasion and is in a state of war, the other Party shall immediately use all available means to provide military and other assistance in accordance with Article 51 of the Agreement UN Charter. And the laws of each country.” Article 51 of the UN Charter allows member states to take individual or collective self-defense actions.

Kim Jong Un echoed Putin’s sentiments, linking their deepening ties to the fight against the “hegemonist and imperialist” policies of the West, especially the United States, and its support for Ukraine.

International reactions and implications

The impact of this agreement on Russia’s ongoing conflict with Ukraine remains uncertain. Washington and Seoul have expressed concern about growing military cooperation between Russia and North Korea. They accuse the two of violating international laws by trafficking weapons for use against Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have reported finding North Korean missile debris in their country. That is a claim that both Russia and North Korea deny.

The treaty also stipulates that neither country will sign agreements with third countries that infringe on the interests of the other. Furthermore, they will not allow their territories to be used to harm each other’s security and sovereignty. The agreement includes provisions for joint actions aimed at “strengthening defense capabilities to prevent war. And ensure regional and international peace and security.”

Reactions from world powers

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The South Korean Foreign Ministry regretted the agreement. Seoul highlighted concerns over military technology cooperation. It argues that the arms trade violates UN Security Council resolutions on North Korea’s weapons programs. Japan has expressed “serious concerns” about possible military technology cooperation between Russia and North Korea.

China, North Korea’s most important political and economic ally, has reacted with muted concern. Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the pact as an example of aligning authoritarian powers.

Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak criticized Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. He described the agreements as the nullification of sanctions on North Korea aimed at curbing weapons development.

Broader strategic cooperation

On his first visit to Pyongyang since 2000, Putin thanked Kim for his support of Russian policies. Kim reaffirmed his “unconditional” support for Russia, including Putin’s war with Ukraine. The agreement also includes cooperation in nuclear energy, space exploration, food and energy security.

Cha Du Hyeogn, a former South Korean government official and current fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, responded to the pacts. He noted that the pledge of mutual defense reflects the 1961 treaty between North Korea and the Soviet Union. However, he believes that the reference to the UN Charter and the laws of each country leaves room for interpretation. He also raised questions about whether the agreement constitutes a formal alliance.

(With input from Reuters)

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