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North Korea’s Kim, in letter to Putin, vows solidarity with Russia


SEOUL — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vowed to strengthen relations with Russia so the two countries could continue to “smash the imperialists’ arbitrary practices and hegemony,” according to a state media report.

Kim made the promise in a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule, in the latest sign that Pyongyang and Moscow are deepening their bonds.

Kim said the North’s relations with Russia will be “further developed into a long-standing strategic relationship” in his message to Putin. He said the two countries are “fully demonstrating their invincibility and might” in their struggle against “imperialists,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Putin told Kim that Russia will “strengthen the bilateral cooperation in all fields for the two peoples’ well-being and the firm stability and security of the Korean Peninsula and the whole of Northeast Asia,” according to KCNA.

Last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a rare trip to Pyongyang to meet the North Korean leader. They attended a military exhibition that displayed the North’s nuclear-capable missiles. The Kim regime’s nuclear and missile developments are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions.

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Shoigu said on Tuesday that the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea “meets the fundamental interests” of the two countries and “does not pose a threat to anyone.”

“Neither the international isolation nor economic sanctions have been able to stop the development” of North Korea, he said at a security conference in Moscow.

Russia, a Cold War ally of North Korea, is one of a handful of countries with which the Kim regime maintains friendly relations. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the growing global isolation of Moscow is pushing the Kremlin closer to the Kim regime, analysts say. Both countries face heavy sanctions imposed by U.S.-led global coalitions.

“Russia is in need of friends or at least partners right now,” said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London. “North Korea is one of the countries fully behind Russia, and can also provide weapons to support its invasion of Ukraine.”

Signs are mounting that Russia is seeking weapons from North Korea to provide for its war in Ukraine, which Moscow and Pyongyang have both denied. Just days after the Russian defense minister’s trip to Pyongyang last month, a Russian military plane flew to North Korea, suggesting possible arms transactions between the two countries.

Washington said Shoigu used his trip to request munitions supplies from North Korea. “This is yet another example of how desperate Mr. Putin has become because his war machine is being affected by the sanctions and the export controls,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said earlier this month.

“Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would, of course, directly violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he said.

Signs of North Korean arms supply to Russia also surfaced on the battlefield in Ukraine. Ukrainian soldiers were using North Korean weapons that Kyiv suggested were captured from Russians, the Financial Times reported last month. Ukrainian troops were observed firing the Soviet-era rockets from North Korea against Russian positions, according to the newspaper.

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Letters on Tuesday between the leaders of North Korea and Russia did not mention any weapons sales, although Kim stressed “the militant friendship and solidarity established between the armies and peoples of the two countries.”

The growing defense partnership between Russia and North Korea could go beyond cooperation on Ukraine, said Pacheco Pardo. “We can expect Moscow to transfer know-how, technology and potentially weapons to the Kim Jong Un regime once it recovers from the Ukraine invasion.”

He said this is a worrying development for the United States and its allies, as Russia could expedite North Korea’s nuclear and missile pursuits.

The United States will discuss security cooperation concerning North Korea and Ukraine, among other issues, at a summit with Japan and South Korea at Camp David later this week.


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