North Korea’s Kim hails Russia alliance, promises Putin support on Ukraine

Leaders of the two neighbors concluded one-on-one talks that lasted about two hours, Russian media reported.
By Taejun Kang for RFA
Taipei, Taiwan
North Korea’s Kim hails Russia alliance, promises Putin support on Ukraine Portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are displayed side by side in Pyongyang, June 19, 2024.
KRT via Reuters

Updated June 19, 2024, 6:28 a.m. ET.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un hailed a “new, high level of alliance” with Russia on Wednesday as he promised President Vladimir Putin full support for his war in Ukraine, media reported.

Putin, on his first visit to isolated North Korea in 24 years, said after one-on-one talks with Kim that lasted for about two hours that a new comprehensive strategic partnership pact would form the basis of relations for years to come, said a correspondent from Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency.

Kim said the pact signed by the two leaders was historic and he reaffirmed “full support and firm solidarity with the Russian government, armed forces and people in their struggle to defend their sovereignty, security interests and territorial integrity in Ukraine,” according to a video of summit remarks released by media outlets.

“In the future, we will continue to strengthen and deepen strategic communication with the Russian leadership and Russia and unconditionally support all of Russia’s policies, regardless of the complex international situation,” Kim said.

Kim said relations were “at an all-time high, unparalleled even in the past relations with the Soviet Union,” adding that he was confident Putin's visit would “further solidify the friendship and people-to-people foundation of the two countries.”

Putin thanked Kim saying he appreciated North Korea’s support.

“We very much appreciate your systematic and permanent support of Russian policy, including on the Ukrainian issue,” Russian media quoted Putin as telling Kim at the start of their meeting, AFP reported. 

The United States says that North Korea has supplied Russia with large amounts of weapons for its war in Ukraine, in particular artillery rounds and ballistic missiles, although both Russia and North Korea deny that.

In exchange for its weapons, North Korea is suspected of getting Russian technological assistance for its space program. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his visit to Pyongyang, North Korea, in this image released by the North Korean government, June 19, 2024. (KCNA via Reuters)

In May, the North’s attempt to launch a military spy satellite ended in failure with the rocket exploding on liftoff. But in November last year, North Korea successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit, and it had planned to launch three more satellites in 2024.

Earlier on Wednesday, the two leaders attended  a welcome ceremony at Pyongyang's massive Kim Il Sung Square, complete with an honor guard and rows of North Korean citizens with balloons. Buildings around the square were bedecked with the countries'  flags and huge portraits of the two men, pictures in Russian state media showed.

Crowds in red, white and blue shirts waved flowers and flags as the two leaders passed by, standing in an open-top limousine.

‘Solid friendship’

Both Russia and North Korea are facing wide-ranging sanctions, the former for its invasion of Ukraine and the latter for its development of nuclear bombs and the missiles to deliver them around the world.

In an apparent reference to the sanctions, Putin, in a commentary published on the eve of his visit in North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper, called for unity in resisting “illegal and unilateral restrictions”, while vowing to build alternative systems for trade and settlements with North Korea out of the control of the West.

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Kim said bilateral ties were “entering their best period ever,” calling Putin's visit “the most significant strategic step for world peace and security.”

“The government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appreciates the important mission and role of the powerful Russian Federation in maintaining strategic stability and balance in the world,” Kim said.

The Russian leader added that he was confident of the success of his talks with Kim and extended an invitation for the next North Korea-Russia summit to take place in Moscow.

“Russia and North Korea have been tied for several decades by a solid friendship and close neighborhood [relations],” said Putin who heralded bilateral cooperation “based on the principles of equality and mutual respect of interests."

It is Putin’s first trip to North Korea since July 2000, when he met the then leader, Kim Jong-il, the late father of the current leader. It also comes nine months after Kim traveled to Russia’s Far East for a summit with Putin.

The rare visit by a foreign leader to North Korea and boosts a relationship that offers Pyongyang an alternative to its close ties to Beijing, analysts say.

North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty of friendship and mutual assistance in 1961 which included a provision for so-called automatic military intervention, under which if one side is under armed attack, the other provides troops and other aid without hesitation.

North Korea and Russia signed a new treaty of bilateral ties in 2000, but it did not contain such a provision as it centered on economic, scientific and cultural cooperation.

Experts said the two leaders could discuss  North Korean workers going to Russia. The North is desperate for foreign currency due to the international sanctions, while Russia has been facing a labor shortage exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

Edited by RFA Staff.

Updated to include remarks from Kim.


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