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Putin, Kim sign treaty for mutual military support against 'aggression'

Kim promises Putin 'full support' for Russia's war in Ukraine; Putin says treaty to take ties to 'new level'

June 19, 2024 - 15:57 By Ji Da-gyum
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting in Pyongyang on Wednesday (Pool Photo via Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a new partnership deal that resurrected a mutual defense commitment in case either country is attacked in a summit held under the wary eyes of the international community on Wednesday.

"The comprehensive partnership agreement signed today provides, among other things, for mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties to this agreement," Putin was quoted as saying by state news agency TASS, after one-on-one talks that lasted for around 2 hours.

Calling it a "breakthrough" treaty with North Korea, the Russian leader said it would take their bilateral ties to a "new level." He also said the two countries stand against "politically motivated sanctions" after the signing ceremony.

Putin also mentioned that Russia does not rule out developing military-technical cooperation with North Korea in connection with the signed agreement.

Kim lauded the agreement as the “strongest treaty in the history of bilateral ties,” elevating them to "a new, high level of alliance."

Moscow and Pyongyang had kept automatic military intervention in the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance signed in 1961 during the Cold War era.

Putin earlier in the day announced a "new fundamental document" that would form the basis of relations between Russia and North Korea "for the long term" during an enlarged meeting at the Kumsusan Palace in the capital of the isolated country.

Putin’s aide for foreign affairs Yury Ushakov announced Monday that the new treaty would replace the 2000 treaty and the Moscow and Pyongyang Declarations of 2000 and 2001.

The new treaty, therefore, has elevated their relationship to just below the level of a strategic alliance. Traditionally, Russia categorizes its foreign relations into several levels of closeness: good neighborly relations, strategic cooperative partnership, comprehensive strategic partnership, and strategic alliance.

The Treaty of Friendship, Good-Neighborliness, and Cooperation signed between Moscow and Pyongyang in February 2000, five months before Putin's first-ever trip to Pyongyang, established their relationship at the lowest level: good neighborly relations.

Director of the Institute for Eurasian Strategic Studies Park Byung-hwan pointed out that the "North Korea-Russia relationship has been elevated to a higher level than the South Korea-Russia relationship." South Korea and Russia have maintained a strategic cooperative partnership since 2008.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (right) and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands after a welcoming ceremony at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang on Wednesay. (Pool Photo via AFP)

Ushakov also disclosed Wednesday that Kim received a tea set, an admiral's dagger and a Russian-produced new Aurus luxury car from Putin. In February, Putin gifted an Aurus Senat to Kim, drawing criticism from the international community for violating UN Security Council Resolution 2397.

At the highly-watched meeting, Putin and Kim also flaunted a united front on Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and vowed to expand their strategic partnership against the US and its allies.

Putin also expressed Russia's appreciation for North Korea's consistent and unwavering support of Russian policies, including its stance on the war in Ukraine.

"I am referring to our struggle against the hegemonic policy imposed for decades, the imperialist policy of the United States and satellites towards the Russian Federation," Putin said as quoted by state-run Sputnik News during his meeting with Kim.

In return, Kim noted Russia's role in "maintaining strategic stability and balance in the world."

Kim also expressed "full support and solidarity to the Russian government, army and people in carrying out the special military operation in Ukraine to protect sovereignty, security interests and also territorial integrity."

"Now the situation in the world is becoming more complicated and changing rapidly. In this situation, we intend to further strengthen strategic communication with Russia, with the Russian leadership," Kim said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, foreground (right) attend the official welcome ceremony in the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Putin commenced his first visit to Pyongyang in 24 years with a lavish official welcoming ceremony at Kim Il Sung Square. The square was adorned with large-scale portraits of Kim and Putin and thronged with children and residents cheering, dancing, and waving flowers and the flags of the two countries, as shown in video footage provided by the Kremlin.

Putin and Kim inspected the military guards, strolled along a red carpet and rode together in a car through streets adorned with enthusiastic crowds waving the flags of their respective nations before proceeding to engage in high-level discussions with their delegations, according to video footage by the Kremlin and Russian state-run media outlets.

The Russian delegation includes high-ranking officials from a broader range of sectors compared to Putin's trip to Pyongyang in 2000. Among the delegation are Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, the point man for the energy sector; Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Alexander Kozlov; Head of the Roscosmos State Space Corporation Yuri Borisov; and Russian Railways CEO Oleg Belozerov.

Additionally, the delegation features First Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, Deputy Defense Minister Aleksey Krivoruchko, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Transport Minister Roman Starovoit, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko, and Oleg Kozhemyako, Governor of the Russian Far Eastern region of Primorsky Krai.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left, center) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (right, center) hold bilateral talks at the Kumsusan State Guest House. (Russian Presidential Press and Information Office via TASS)

North Korean state media on Wednesday highlighted that Putin’s visit came “at a crucial time" when the friendly relations between North Korea and Russia "have emerged as a strong strategic fortress for preserving international justice, peace and security and an engine for accelerating the building of a new multi-polar world."

State media also said the meeting between Kim and Putin amply demonstrated the "invincibility and durability of the DPRK-Russia friendship and unity," referring to North Korea by an acronym of its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Putin arrived at Pyongyang International Airport early Wednesday morning, several hours later than originally planned, for his two-day trip to Pyongyang.

However, Kim waited for Putin alone, without a North Korean welcoming delegation, on a red carpet at the airport. The scene was adorned with a banner in Korean and Russian reading "the DPRK-Russia friendship will last forever," along with the national flags of North Korea and Russia.

After exchanging handshakes and embracing, the two leaders shared a few more words before proceeding to Putin’s presidential Aurus limousine.

North Korean state media reported that the two leaders "exchanged their pent-up inmost thoughts and opened their minds to more surely develop the DPRK-Russia relations in conformity with the common desire and will of the peoples of the two countries with the meeting as a momentum" en route to the Kumsusan State Guest House, Putin's residence.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are seen at the airport on Wednesday. (Kremlin via TASS)

The Putin-Kim summit has sparked concerns over furthering their illicit military cooperation, which involves North Korea supplying weapons to support Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed Tuesday that "North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia, and other – and other weapons for use in Ukraine" during a joint press conference with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg when asked about Putin's trip to Pyongyang.

"So we are very much concerned about this because this is what’s keeping the war going," Blinken said.

Stoltenberg also pointed out, "We are, of course, also concerned about the potential support that Russia provides to North Korea when it comes to supporting their missile and nuclear programs."

At the UN Security Council meeting, South Korean Ambassador to UN Hwang Joon-kook underscored Tuesday that "Not only what Russia receives from this deal, but also what North Korea gets in return, may pose a significant threat to international peace and security."

The "illegal and perilous military cooperation between these two countries has emerged as a grave international security concern in Europe, Asia and beyond," Hwang said.