Thursday, 18 July, 2024

Sponsored

The West’s fears realized? What Putin’s meeting with Kim Jong-un really means


On his recent visit to Pyongyang, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement, before moving on to a warm welcome and a similar series of declarations in Vietnam.

Is this really a new level of relations between Moscow and Pyongyang?

Those who consider the visit simply a gesture of support for Pyongyang are missing important details. We now see the term “universal strategic partnership” being used, which implies the highest possible level of cooperation between countries. Compared to earlier descriptions of relations between Moscow and Pyongyang, this is a great leap forward.

There is also the article written by Putin for North Korea’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun. It contains an important thesis: the strengthening of relations between Pyongyang and Moscow is the beginning of a new world order based on justice, which will oppose the US model of a rules-based world order. This is very important because currently, we see a self-fulfilling prophecy. The “Western triangle” composed of Washington-Tokyo-Seoul is evolving into the Asian equivalent of NATO and justifies its actions by invoking the hypothetical threat coming from Pyongyang and Moscow. This in turn leads to increasing cooperation between the “Eastern triangle” composed of Moscow-Beijing-Pyongyang, and the close ties that the West warns of can indeed become a reality.

Mutual military aid

Article 4 of the Russia-DPRK strategic partnership treaty states that“if one of the Parties is subjected to an armed attack by any State or several States and thus finds itself in a state of war, the other Party will immediately provide military and other assistance with all the means at its disposal.” However, based on comments made by Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, we know that the agreement is not directed against third countries, so South Korea shouldn’t be worried.

The key point here is the official “state of war” (for example, formally, Russia is conducting a ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine and the countries have not declared war on each other). Other situations are covered by Article 3, which states that“In the event of an immediate threat of an act of armed aggression against one of the Parties, the Parties, at the request of one of the Parties, shall immediately use bilateral channels for consultations in order to coordinate their positions and agree on possible practical measures to assist each other to help eliminate the emerging threat.” During the consultations, a specific strategy and measures will be developed.

Still, judging by the West’s reaction, the treaty has spooked it anyway, because the military-technical cooperation that it has been accusing Moscow and Pyongyang of can now become a reality. For example, if a NATO aircraft bearing a Ukrainian flag attacks a target in Belgorod, this can be interpreted as an act of aggression and Russia may request North Korea’s assistance. North Korea will also supply artillery shells to Russia (this time for real, not just in the imagination of Western propagandists and turbo-patriots), particularly since North Korea is undergoing artillery rearmament and shells of calibers that are no longer needed can be sent to Russia.  Moreover, Article 8 hints at the possibility of joint military exercises or other “joint measures to strengthen defense capabilities in the interests of preventing war and ensuring regional and international peace and security.”

We should also note that the Russian delegation included Russia’s Minister of Defense and the head of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. The current extent of military-technical cooperation is unclear, but most likely the two leaders talked about its further development. Clearly, Putin and Kim spoke a lot more face-to-face than they did publicly, which is also quite noteworthy.

Russia won’t abandon UN sanctions on North Korea – yet

The West expected Russia to drop the sanctions imposed on North Korea by the UN Security Council, but that didn’t happen after all. Both Putin’s article and the treaty stress the importance of cooperation in education, health, and science and make it clear that the sanctions should be lifted, and that the sides will look for ways to do this. But at best, this implies reinterpreting and circumventing the sanctions, rather than openly violating them and refusing to comply. On the one hand, we see a trend towards the disintegration of the traditional world order, including UN structures, which have fallen prey to double standards. As of now, Moscow stands for ‘creatively interpreting’ the sanctions – if something is not prohibited, it means it’s allowed, but Russia will currently comply with the sanctions that it once voted for. The sanctions against North Korea have not been lifted. Article 16 of the treaty, which criticizes “unilateral coercive measures”, may be seen as a desire to change the sanctions regime or look for ways to circumvent it, but nowhere has it been stated that the Russian Federation and North Korea do not consider it necessary to comply with it.

This may change during the next round of escalation, because regardless of whether arms deals between Moscow and Pyongyang are real or not, the West will accuse both countries and will implement some sort of measures.

The appearance of North Korean workers in Russia testifies to the fact that the decision to ignore some of the sanctions has been made, either de jure or de facto. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin has long proposed employing workers from North Korea at construction sites, including in Russia’s new territories. These are military construction workers who do their job very well and work on a rotation basis. Cost effectiveness, quality, safety, and inconspicuousness are their strong suits. So, for example, when a woman in Russia’s Far East needs to renovate her apartment, she will hire workers from North Korea.

How will the West respond? 

With Russia-North Korea cooperation growing, South Korea’s position is becoming increasingly important, since its leadership will be pushed to cooperate more closely with the US and NATO and to change its policy on Ukraine. Currently, despite the general solidarity with the US regarding Russia, South Korea is trying to keep some room to manoeuvre. Now, it will be more difficult for Seoul to do this, since Washington is trying to convince it that if Moscow is helping Pyongyang and vice versa, Seoul should help Kiev. In such a situation, it’s increasingly likely that South Korea may change its position and there may be a sharp deterioration of its relations with Russia. South Korea may lose its status as the “friendliest of the unfriendly countries” in regard to Russia. However, it will probably try to resist Western pressure.

Another important aspect is that Ukraine and its backers occasionally accuse Russia of being an aggressor country that secretly helps North Korea, and therefore should be deprived of the right of veto or be stripped of permanent membership of the UN Security Council. If Russia openly ignores the sanctions against North Korea, it will add fuel to the fire. But, as mentioned above, trust in UN structures is decreasing. Besides, as described by an acquaintance, “if we escalate, we will be expelled in July; if we don’t, in September,” which has some logic to it.

China’s reaction

China’s reaction to Putin’s visit to North Korea was rather restrained – Beijing simply noted that this was an important and serious event. The Global Times wrote that this cooperation may frighten the US, and the Chinese Foreign Ministry called North Korea’s desire to develop relations with Russia normal, which is a rather neutral assessment.

This, however, has been the subject of speculation in the West, revolving around the idea that China is extremely unhappy with the rapprochement between Russia and North Korea and would even pressure the sides not to sign the treaty. But interpreting Beijing’s reaction this way is like being a medieval inquisitor, convinced that he sees a witch and interpreting any facts as proof of guilt. If the witch is pretty, it means the devil has endowed her with beauty, and if the witch is ugly, it means she’s been marked or sacrificed her beauty to practice witchcraft. In a similar way, the West convinced itself that Putin visited North Korea and Vietnam not because these countries are part of the socialist camp, but because they have strained relations with China. Instead, we need to look at solid facts and avoid speculation.

China has an agreement with North Korea which dates back to 1961, and which also guarantees military assistance. But in 2017-2018, before the warming of relations that happened during the Olympics, Chinese analysts noted that if a Korean conflict was initiated by the North, China would limit itself to diplomatic support, but if it was the South that attacked, then Beijing would remember the blood once spilled by its volunteer fighters and step in. No one knows whether the situation has changed now. It is also unclear to what extent Pyongyang has deferred to Beijing’s wishes regarding nuclear tests and why it has refused to conduct them.

Other branches of cooperation

New directions of cooperation between Russia and North Korea include the fields of science, culture, and healthcare, since North Korea needs qualified personnel. Some believe that inviting North Korean students to study in Russia is a way of circumventing sanctions – since students, including foreign ones, are allowed to work, we could hypothetically have 10,000 North Koreans registered as students while working at Russian construction sites. But the number voiced so far is 130 people who will study at the physics and technology department of Moscow State University or the Russian Technological University. These are future military-technical workers who won’t need to work at construction sites since they will study science and help develop the North Korean military-industrial complex.

Another important project is to build an automobile bridge between North Korea and Russia. It came as a surprise to many people that currently, there’s only a railway route between the two countries. For a long time, there has been talk of building an automobile bridge, and finally the corresponding decision has been made. A bridge will make all sorts of exchanges between the two countries a lot more efficient.

Some may remember how during the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our embassy’s diplomatic staff was forced to cross the border on an auxiliary rail vehicle. This happened because families had to be promptly evacuated, and that was the only direct way to cross the border. Now, such problems will be solved much more easily, and, considering the quality of North Korean construction workers, the bridge is likely to be built quickly.

Why was the visit so short?

Even though Putin’s visit was brief, it has accomplished a lot. This indicates that a lot of work had been done beforehand, and the two sides only had to solemnly sign the documents. The Russian embassy in North Korea has a Telegram channel and constantly posts updates there – how the delegation arrived, how it left, and so on. We may see that between Kim’s visit to Russia and Putin’s visit to North Korea, the contacts between officials on both sides were very intensive. There were visits from officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, and law enforcement agencies. And this cooperation is not just a formality, but a reality.

Credit: RT News

Sponsored

0 comments on “The West’s fears realized? What Putin’s meeting with Kim Jong-un really means

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *