Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un’s enigmatic relationship

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Tonio Galea is editor of Corporate ID Group’s http://www.cde.news

North Koreans’ overseas trips are a few and far in between so when Kim Jong-un does venture away from the country’s borders, it does make the news, especially when it is to Russia, a country in the midst of a brutal war and suffering an acute shortage of arms and ammunition.

The relationship between Russia and North Korea has been a subject of intrigue and geopolitical significance for decades. This recent trip therefore, only goes to reinforce how two pariah states need each other more than ever.

The historical context of the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un can be traced back to the Soviet Union’s support for North Korea during the Korean War. This support laid the foundation for diplomatic relations between the two nations. However, it was only in the 21st century that personal interactions between their respective leaders became more significant.

Every since he took office as Supreme Leader of North Korea in 2011, the North Korean leader has made nine foreign trips to five countries. The trip to Russia was his second one, the other one being in 2019.

It was also Kim’s longest foreign travel since he took power in late 2011. He made the long train journey north hoping to secure Russian expertise in weapons technology, and potentially food and other aid.

Their first meeting in four years was a rare opportunity for Putin to welcome one of the Kremlin’s few international allies. While exact details remain scant on what sort of talks have taken place behind closed
doors, observers say it is clear what both are seeking from one another.

Russia was expected to seek artillery shells and antitank missiles from Pyongyang, while the latter want advanced satellite and nuclear-powered submarine technology in return. It remains unclear whether Russia would be willing to share such sensitive technologies in exchange for what could be a limited amount of North Korean ammunition slowly delivered across the countries’ small, shared border.

When the two leaders met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur Region, a reporter asked Putin whether Russia would help North Korea “launch its own satellites and rockets” – to which Putin responded, “That’s exactly why we came here.”

The Russian president also said Kim “shows great interest in space, in rocketry, and they are trying to develop space.”

Kim’s summit with Putin was held at Russia’s main space launch site, a location that pointed to his desire for Russian assistance in his efforts to acquire space-based reconnaissance assets and missile technologies.

The meeting sent unmistakable signals that the regime in Pyongyang is still interested in establishing a presence in space.

On the other hand, military cooperation between North Korea and Russia is illegal and unjust as it contravenes U.N. Security Council resolutions and various other international sanctions.

Kim’s choice of language in Russia is potentially the rejection of a return to diplomacy with the US over his development of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, as he referred to the Kremlin’s “sacred fight” against the “hegemonic forces” that oppose it.

Four years after his second, ill-fated summit with Donald Trump in Hanoi in 2019, the North Korean leader has allied himself to Washington’s nemesis in Moscow – a shift hastened by the course of the war in Ukraine.

“Now we want to further develop the relationship,” Kim said, according to footage broadcast on Russian TV.

Amid all this, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has expressed interest in creating a trilateral partnership with Russia and North Korea amid rumours that Putin and Jongun were negotiating an arms deal to sustain Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Belarusian leader made the remarks during a summit with Putin in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi – their seventh face-to-face meeting this year – right after Putin and Kim met at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east.

The relationship between Putin and Jong-un is characterized by a blend of historical ties, geopolitical calculations, and diplomatic exchanges.Both leaders have strategic interests in maintaining stability on the Korean Peninsula, while also exploring opportunities for economic cooperation.

As such, the dynamics between these two leaders are expected to continue to play a role in shaping regional and global politics, as the world watches for further developments in their relationship and its impact on North Korea’s role in the international arena.


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