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Russia-North Korea pact

22nd June, 2024 International Relations

Russia-North Korea pact

Source: NDTV

Disclaimer: Copyright infringement not intended.

Context: Russia President Vladimir Putin’s recent Pyongyang visit culminated with a landmark pact between Russia and North Korea for “immediate military assistance if either faces armed aggression”.


Historical context

  • After World War II, the erstwhile Soviet Union wanted the installation of a communist regime in Korea, and offered significant military assistance to North Korea founder Kim Il Sung during the Korean War.
  • The USSR, along with China, provided significant military and other aid to the communist North.
  • The two nations solidified their alliance in 1961, with the signing of the Russo-North Korea Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, which like the latest pact contained a mutual defence agreement. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, this treaty was voided and relations temporarily deteriorated.
  • Since the early 2000s, however, Putin-ruled Russia has gotten closer to the Kim-family ruled North Korea regime. Russia still did not back North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, and for a time, even supported sanctions against the country aimed at curbing Pyongyang’s nuclear capabilities.
  • Things changed for good in 2022, as Russia invaded Ukraine and Putin found himself increasingly isolated, internationally.
  • Today, the world is as divided as it has been since the end of the Cold War, Russia and North Korea stand together against the Western liberal order, based on highly pragmatic considerations.

The recent pact

  • The pact between Russia and North Korea talks about cooperation on a wide range of issues, including mutual military support, and unspecified technological assistance. Crucial is the mutual defence provisions.
  • “In case any one of the two sides is put in a state of war by an armed invasion from an individual state or several states, the other side shall provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and the laws of the DPRK [North Korea] and the Russian Federation,” Article 4 of the agreement says.
  • This provision echoes the 1961 agreement between the two nations
  • The more likely consequence of the treaty is simply closer cooperation in weapons production, with North Korea manufacturing more munitions for Russia and Russia providing more high-end help for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
  • The provision of technological assistance is likely to be crucial. Currently, North Korea is believed to possess nuclear weapons but lacks critical missile guidance systems, cutting-edge warhead design, and re-entry vehicle technology, precluding its development of advanced, long-range nuclear weapons.

Other areas of coopration

  • Expand cooperation in trade, economy, investment and science and technology, support both sides' special or free economic zones, and develop exchanges and joint research in science and technology, including space, biology, peaceful use of nuclear energy, artificial intelligence and information technology.
  • Support regional and cross-border cooperation, and create favourable conditions for establishing direct economic and trade links between both sides' border regions, such as by forming business bodies and holding forums and exhibitions.
  • Strengthen exchanges in agriculture, education, health, sports, culture and tourism, and seek cooperation in environmental protection, natural disaster prevention and elimination of their consequences.
  • Promote mutual recognition of product standards, test records and quality certificates, and develop expert training and exchanges of test results.
  • Protect the legal rights and interests of the other party's legal entities and citizens, and cooperate in providing legal assistance, extradition and transfer of persons, as well as returning assets obtained through criminal methods.
  • Deepen exchanges of legislative and law enforcement institutions.
  • Oppose unilateral coercive measures targeting each side as illegal and in violation of the U.N. Charter and international legal norms, and coordinate efforts to block them.
  • Work together to tackle challenges and threats in the areas of international terrorism, extremism, transnational organised crimes, human trafficking, hostage-taking, illegal immigration, illegal flows of funds, money laundering, financing for dissemination of weapons of mass destruction, illegal acts that pose a threat to the safety of civil aviation and maritime navigation, and production and distribution of drugs and psychotropic products.
  • Promote cooperation in the field of public affairs and publication, and encourage the dissemination of each other's literature.
  • Supply objective information about each other, and work together to combat false information and provocative propaganda activities.

Strategic implications

  • For South Korea and Japan, this treaty is likely to be perceived as a direct security threat. Both countries have long been concerned about North Korea’s nuclear program, and military strength. The Russian security umbrella will only add to these concerns.
  • This is likely to push both countries to strengthen their defences and rethink their security policies. Japan has already moved away from its long-standing pacifist foreign policy, and is in the process of building its military might.
  • South Korea convened an emergency meeting of its national security council in response, and said it will now consider sending arms to Ukraine, something which it had thus far resisted.
  • Both South Korea and Japan are likely going to further cement their alliance with the United States, in response.
  • The United States has already reaffirmed its commitment to its allies. 
  • NATO  has expressed deep concern about the pact, highlighting the risks to global security and the potential for increased nuclear proliferation.
  • The Russia-North Korea pact could also encourage similar partnerships, elsewhere, most notably with Iran. For the West, these will continue to pose a major threat.
  • China, a traditional ally to North Korea, is likely to be conflicted about the development.
  • While the treaty strengthens the anti-West bulwark in Asia, China would be wary of Russia’s growing military collaboration with North Korea, which could undermine its near-exclusive geopolitical influence over Pyongyang. It would also be concerned about a greater Western footprint in Asia, as a result of this development.


Indian Express


Q. Discuss about the impact Russia- North Korea pact on global security. Analyze 150 words