Vladimir Putin bolsters his relationship with North Korea

There are only a few countries left in the world that Russian President Vladimir Putin can visit without fearing arrest due to the ICC’s warrant against him. North Korea, a traditional ally of Russia, is among them. North Korea remains steadfast in its relationship with Russia while becoming increasingly isolated from the West. As the war in Ukraine shows no sign of ending, Russian munitions are failing to hit their targets, and Russia is even relying on soldiers, mostly trafficked from South Asia. In this situation, the relationship with North Korea will be mutually beneficial. North Korea, known to possess nuclear weapons and to have displayed various other dangerous weapons before, is causing concerns in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Japan and South Korea regard North Korea as a dangerous enemy and are on high alert due to the growing relationship between Putin and Kim.

Vladimir Putin has arrived in North Korea for an important summit with Kim Jong-un, according to sources. Making his first visit to the reclusive country since 2000, the Russian president flew to Pyongyang early on Wednesday and was greeted by huge welcome banners and Russian flags, as reported by Russian state media. His plane touched down in Pyongyang at about 2:45 am local time after a stopover in Russia’s far east. Putin and Kim held a brief meeting shortly after his arrival and are scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to sign agreements aimed at deepening their relationship, which has significantly strengthened since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Kim is not involved in the Russia-Ukraine war but has expressed support for Russia. Some Western media have reported that they have already provided munitions to Russia. The US and South Korea assert they have evidence that North Korea has supplied Russia with dozens of ballistic missiles and over 11,000 containers of munitions for use in Ukraine. They have also highlighted evidence of Korean-made artillery in Ukraine. However, both Russia and North Korea have denied these allegations. North Korea could provide more to Russia with ongoing supplies of artillery, guided rockets for multiple rocket launchers, and short-range missiles to support its operations in Ukraine. Kim, who met Putin in the Russian Pacific city of Vladivostok during a week-long visit to Russia last September, is among the few world leaders to have expressed unequivocal support for the war. Putin has described the pair as “comrades-in-arms” against Western attempts to isolate them through sanctions.

North Korea is highly reliant on Russia, who has closed all relationships with the world and is only open to Russia and China. Both countries support the communist regime in North Korea, so welcoming Putin isn’t merely ceremonial; without support from Russia, North Korea can maneuver independently. However, for Russia, the president’s visit signifies more than symbolic gestures; it entails securing deals and ensuring continued support from North Korea to maintain a hassle-free eastern border. The vast eastern part of the elongated country is distant from Moscow, and any signs of Russia’s weakness could lead to trouble in this region. Therefore, maintaining a militarily strong ally in the east is crucial for Korea. Perhaps Putin’s first visit to the country in 24 years is driven by Russia’s insecurities. Currently, it appears that Russia is favoring North Korea more. Putin has even praised Kim for defying UN Security Council sanctions, measures that Moscow had supported until recently, aimed at curbing his regime’s nuclear ambitions.

North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said Putin’s visit proves that ties between the two countries “are getting stronger day by day” and would lend “fresh vitality to the development of good-neighborly cooperative relations between the two countries”. However, the media in South Korea, Japan, and the West raised concerns. The US expressed concern that the visit could impact security in Ukraine and on the Korean peninsula, which has recently experienced tension along the heavily fortified border separating North and South Korea since the end of the notorious Korean War.

Putin’s trip showed he was “Dependent” on authoritarian leaders. North Korea, Iran, and China are the closest friends and biggest supporters of the Russian war effort. The Russian government is now taking all steps to bolster these relationships. The Russian delegation to Pyongyang is said to include Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the heads of the Russian space agency and railways, and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is Putin’s key representative for energy. Putin’s North Korean hosts have not released any details of his itinerary. However, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency, the visit will feature one-on-one discussions between Putin and Kim, a gala concert, a state reception, honor guards, document signings, and a statement to the media.