Russia and North Korea sign partnership agreement | All you need to know | World News - Hindustan Times
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Russia and North Korea sign partnership agreement | All you need to know

AP |
Jun 20, 2024 02:04 PM IST

The agreement vows mutual defence assistance and broader cooperation in military, foreign policy and trade. South Korea said it is assessing the deal's impact.

Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un say the strategic partnership they signed in their summit in Pyongyang is a breakthrough, but what it means for their relationship is still uncertain.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet in Pyongyang(via REUTERS)
Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un meet in Pyongyang(via REUTERS)

While the agreement could represent the countries’ strongest deal signed after the Cold War, there are differing opinions on how strong of a security commitment Russia made to North Korea.

Also read | North Korea helping Russia carry out 'mass murder' of civilians: Ukraine

Kim claimed that the deal elevated bilateral relations to the level of an alliance, although Putin was more understated and did not call it an alliance.

The day after the deal was signed at a Pyongyang summit on Wednesday afternoon, North Korean state media released the text of the agreement, which vows mutual defense assistance and broader cooperation in military, foreign policy and trade. Russia has still not published its version of the text.

Officials in rival South Korean said they're still trying to assess what it all means, including what Russia’s response might be if the North comes under attack.

Also read | Kim Jong Un gets Russia-made Aurus car from Putin in luxury gifts exchange

Relations between sprawling Russia and small, isolated North Korea — both of them nuclear powers — have warmed significantly in recent years amid Russia's growing acrimony with the West over the invasion of Ukraine and suppression of all domestic opposition.

The new agreement could bring them even closer, while also posing new challenges to the international community.

What's in the new partnership, according to Kim and Putin:

What did Russia promise?

Most of the debate over Putin and Kim’s comprehensive partnership agreement revolves around Article 4. According to North Korean state media, the article states that if one of the countries gets invaded and is pushed into a state of war, the other must deploy “all means at its disposal without delay” to provide “military and other assistance.”

But it also says that such actions must be in accordance with the laws of both countries and Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which recognizes a U.N. member state’s right to self-defence.

To some analysts, that sounds like a promise that Moscow will intervene if North Korea comes under attack, renewing a promise made under a 1961 treaty between North Korea and the Soviet Union. That deal was discarded after the collapse of the USSR, replaced in 2000 by one that offered weaker security assurances.

Cheong Seong Chang, an analyst at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said the agreement echoes the language of the 1961 treaty, as well as provisions of the U.S.-South Korea mutual defence treaty about activating channels to coordinate if either of faces the threat of invasion.

Also read | South Korea fires warning shots after North Korean soldiers cross border

“North Korea and Russia have completely restored their Cold War-era military alliance,” Cheong said.

But other experts were cautious. Ankit Panda, a senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said Article 4 is carefully worded to avoid implying automatic intervention. It’s also not clear why the article invokes the U.N. Charter.

Still, the big picture is that “both sides are willing to put down on paper, and show the world, just how widely they intend to expand the scope of their cooperation,” Panda said.

What far will military cooperation go?

Putin essentially linked military cooperation with North Korea to Western supplies of weapons to Ukraine, referring to high-precision weapons systems, warplanes and other high-tech weapons.

“The Russian Federation does not exclude the development of military-technical cooperation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in accordance with the document signed today,” Putin said.

That statement in effect formalizes something Western countries claim is already happening.

The U.S. and other allies allege that Russia has received ballistic missiles and ammunition from North Korea as the Ukraine war depletes Moscow’s inventory, and that Russia has made technology transfers to Pyongyang that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile program.

North Korean state media said the agreement requires the countries to take steps to strengthen their joint defence capabilities, but didn't specify what those steps would be, or whether they would include combined military training.

The agreement also calls for the countries to actively cooperate in efforts to establish a “just and multipolar new world order,” the North's Korean Central News Agency said, underscoring how the countries are aligning in face of their separate, escalating confrontations with the United States and its allies.

Panda said the agreement’s language about joint measures on strengthening defence capabilities are “broadly indicative of continued cooperation on a range of technical initiatives.”

What's the economic aspect of the pact?

The partnership also calls for developing economic ties, an especially important issue for North Korea as it suffers under an array of international sanctions. North Korea needs goods and material, and in turn can supply Russia's war-depleted workforce with labour; those workers in turn could convert wages in rubles to dollars or euros and send hard-currency back home.

Putin said the Russian-North Korean trade turnover has risen nine-fold over the past year, but admitted that the amount itself remains “modest.”

Ahead of the summit, South Korean analysts said the North might seek to increase labour exports to Russia and other activities to get foreign currency in defiance of U.N. sanctions, although sensitive details of agreements between Kim and Putin weren't likely to be publicized. The text published by North Korea called for strengthened cooperation in a broad range of areas, including trade, science, technology and tourism.

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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
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