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Kim Jong Un’s Visit to Russia: Mutual Interests and Implications

by Andrew Wright
7 comments
Russo-North Korean Summit

North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has embarked on a trip to Russia for a discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a dialogue that is likely to revolve around Russia’s need for ammunition to replenish its dwindling supplies due to its ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

This meeting is also anticipated to highlight increased collaborative efforts between the two nations, both of whom are facing unique tensions with the United States. North Korea, in exchange for supplying ammunition, is expected to request food and energy supplies as well as the transfer of advanced weaponry technologies.

The summit marks Kim Jong Un’s first international encounter since North Korea sealed its borders in January 2020, due to the global pandemic. The two leaders previously met in April 2019, shortly after Kim Jong Un’s nuclear talks with former U.S. President Donald Trump had fallen apart.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who visited Pyongyang in July, had requested additional ammunition from North Korea, according to sources in the U.S. government. Shoigu also announced that Russia and North Korea were contemplating conducting joint military exercises for the first time.

What Does Russia Seek from North Korea?

American officials have suspected since last year that North Korea has been supplying Russia with various types of ammunition, including artillery shells and rockets that are likely to be replicas of Soviet-era munitions. Kim Taewoo, the former head of Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification, argued that Russia’s urgency for war supplies is evident from the fact that its defense minister visited North Korea for the first time since the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.

Acquiring ammunition from North Korea would constitute a violation of United Nations resolutions that prohibit all arms trade with North Korea, resolutions that Russia itself has supported. However, Russia, now facing international sanctions due to its military activities in Ukraine, has been exploring options to acquire weapons from other nations under similar sanctions, like North Korea and Iran.

Logistically, Du Hyeogn Cha, a researcher at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, questions whether North Korea can swiftly provide large quantities of supplies to Russia given the limited rail link between the two nations.

What Does North Korea Expect in Return?

From Russia, Kim Jong Un is likely to seek humanitarian aid, prestige, and access to advanced military technologies. Nam Sung-wook, former director of South Korea’s Institute for National Security Strategy, stated that both leaders are in unique positions that make the deal mutually beneficial.

North Korea’s economy has been severely impacted by the pandemic-induced border closures, and Kim Jong Un is expected to demand food and energy supplies to address these deficits. Additionally, Kim is also presumed to leverage stronger ties with Russia as a tool for both international recognition and domestic propaganda.

Advanced Russian technologies for long-range missiles, hypersonic ballistic weapons, nuclear-powered submarines, and spy satellites are also on Kim Jong Un’s agenda, according to Hong Min, an analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification. However, it remains uncertain whether Russia would be willing to share such sensitive technologies.

Prospects for Closer Relations

According to Sergei Shoigu, Russia and North Korea are considering the option of conducting bilateral military exercises. Kim Taewoo suggests that increasing security cooperation among South Korea, the U.S., and Japan might prompt North Korea to participate in joint military exercises with Russia and China for the first time, breaking from its philosophy of “juche” or “self-reliance.”

Yet, Nam Sung-wook, now a professor at Korea University, contends that North Korea might be reluctant to do so, fearing increased dependency on China and Russia. Park Won Gon, a professor at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University, concludes that it is too premature to forecast the outcomes of Kim Jong Un’s diplomatic efforts, though both nations are keen to display a united front, especially against the United States.

In summary, the visit by Kim Jong Un to Russia stands as a significant indicator of the evolving geopolitics, which is of considerable concern to rivals like the United States and South Korea. The depth of this cooperation remains to be seen but is likely to have far-reaching implications for the international community.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia

What is the primary focus of Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia?

The primary focus appears to be bilateral cooperation on multiple fronts, including military and geopolitical interests. Both leaders are expected to discuss Russia’s need for ammunition and North Korea’s need for food, energy, and advanced weaponry technologies.

What might Russia gain from its relationship with North Korea?

Russia is seeking to replenish its war supplies, particularly ammunition, which have been depleted due to its ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The nation is also looking to forge stronger military alliances in the face of international sanctions.

What does North Korea expect in return for aiding Russia?

North Korea is likely to seek humanitarian aid in the form of food and energy supplies to address economic deficits exacerbated by pandemic-era border closures. Additionally, North Korea may request access to advanced Russian military technology.

Is the cooperation between Russia and North Korea a violation of any international laws or resolutions?

Acquiring munitions from North Korea would violate United Nations resolutions that ban all arms trade with the country. These resolutions have been supported by Russia in the past.

What implications might this cooperation have for the United States and South Korea?

Increased cooperation between North Korea and Russia could challenge U.S. and South Korean strategic interests in the region. Any warming of relations between the two nations is likely to raise concerns and could require a recalibration of foreign policy strategies by both the U.S. and South Korea.

Could North Korea and Russia conduct joint military exercises?

While it remains a possibility, the extent to which both nations are willing to commit to such exercises is unclear. Such a move would mark a significant departure from North Korea’s philosophy of “juche,” or “self-reliance.”

What challenges could logistics pose to this cooperation?

The limited rail link between Russia and North Korea could pose logistical challenges for the swift transfer of large quantities of military supplies.

Is there any likelihood that Russia would share sensitive military technologies with North Korea?

It remains uncertain. Russia has traditionally been cautious about sharing its most sensitive military technologies, even with close allies.

How does this meeting impact Kim Jong Un’s international standing?

Strengthened ties with Russia could serve to bolster Kim Jong Un’s international image, particularly when viewed as a counterbalance to tensions with the United States. It could also be leveraged for domestic propaganda purposes.

Is it too early to predict the outcomes of this diplomatic effort?

Yes, it is premature to ascertain the full scope of what this diplomatic venture may yield. Both nations, however, seem keen to showcase a united front, especially against the United States.

More about Kim Jong Un’s visit to Russia

  • United Nations Sanctions on North Korea
  • Russo-North Korean Relations: A Historical Overview
  • The Ongoing Conflict in Ukraine: A Briefing
  • U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy: Where it Stands
  • Current State of U.S.-Russia Relations
  • South Korea’s Foreign Policy and Security Concerns
  • North Korea’s Juche Philosophy Explained
  • Analysis: Russia’s Military Strategy and Capabilities
  • North Korea’s Economic Challenges: A Deep Dive
  • Triangular Relations: South Korea, U.S., and Japan

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7 comments

RealistJane September 12, 2023 - 10:55 am

it’s all about survival for both countries. When you’re cornered, you make alliances you wouldn’t otherwise consider. But the ripple effects will be global for sure.

Reply
CryptoGuru September 12, 2023 - 2:20 pm

So what’s the game plan here? Are we heading towards a new cold war or what? Lets not kid ourselves, if they’re sharing military tech, that’s a game changer.

Reply
AutoEnthusiast September 12, 2023 - 4:41 pm

Not related to cars, but hey, geopolitics affect us all. Imagine the sanctions hitting our oil and gas. Better go electric sooner than later.

Reply
PoliticalWatcher September 12, 2023 - 5:20 pm

Wow, both nations seem desperate to get whatever they can from each other. Russia needs ammo and North Korea needs basically everything else. But UN sanctions though? Guess those don’t matter to either.

Reply
SarahInFinance September 12, 2023 - 5:40 pm

Really comprehensive piece, gives you a lot to think about. Both countries have their needs perfectly aligned right now, so it’s a win-win. Or lose-lose for the rest of us?

Reply
EconomyFirst September 12, 2023 - 11:59 pm

Sanctions from the west push these countries together. Should have seen that coming. Sanctions are double edged, aren’t they?

Reply
JohnDoe42 September 13, 2023 - 12:11 am

Wow, this is an eye-opener! I had no idea North Korea and Russia were this deep into cooperation. kinda scary if you ask me.

Reply

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