Russia, N. Korea ink partnership treaty calling for mutual assistance if either is attacked

June 19, 2024

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty calling for mutual assistance if either is attacked Wednesday as they held summit talks in Pyongyang.

Putin also said Russia does not rule out military and technical cooperation with North Korea in line with the partnership treaty, fueling concern the two countries could further deepen their already serious military cooperation, including in Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The treaty on comprehensive partnership signed today provides for mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties to this treaty,” Putin said after summit talks with Kim, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

Putin hailed the treaty as a “truly groundbreaking document” that “reflects the desire of the two countries not to rest on their laurels, but to bring our relations to a new qualitative level,” according to TASS.

Putin also said the U.N. sanctions regime against North Korea should be revised. He went on to say that “attempts to blame North Korea for the deterioration of the situation are categorically unacceptable.”

“North Korea has the right to take reasonable measures to strengthen its own defense capabilities, ensure national security and protect its sovereignty,” Putin said.

Kim declared that the North’s relations Russia have been upgraded to the level of alliance.

“Relations between our two nations rose to a new high of alliance,” Kim said. “It is greatly satisfying to conclude a great treaty that befits a changed international situation and the strategic nature of new DPRK-Russia relations.”

The two leaders met again nine months after they held a summit in Russia’s Far East last September, as Russia, under international sanctions over its war with Ukraine, has been bolstering military and other cooperation with North Korea.

Since the Kim-Putin summit last year, the two nations have been bolstering military ties, with the North being accused of supplying Russia with ammunition for use in Moscow’s war in Ukraine in exchange for aid and suspected technological assistance for its space program.

Putin’s trip came amid concerns that the two nations have been strengthening military cooperation beyond arms transactions as they are forming a united front against what they called U.S.-led hegemony.

The two nations have yet to release details about the new partnership treaty, but it will replace bilateral treaties that North Korea and Russia have so far clinched, including a treaty of bilateral ties in 2000 that centered on cooperation in non-military sectors.

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

At the latest summit in Pyongyang, the two leaders reaffirmed the ever-tightening bilateral relations.

Kim expressed “full support” Wednesday for Russia’s war in Ukraine and pledged to strengthen strategic cooperation, according to TASS.

He said relations between the two countries are “entering a new period of prosperity,” praising Russia’s role in the global strategic balance and vowing to “strengthen strategic cooperation.”

Putin also expressed gratitude to Kim for Pyongyang’s support for Moscow’s policy on Ukraine and also voiced hope to hold the next summit with Kim in Moscow, TASS reported.

Experts said North Korea and Russia are expected to highlight cooperation in the economic sector as any arms deals and military cooperation violate United Nations Security Council resolutions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

In an article published Tuesday by the Rodong Sinmun, the North’s main newspaper, Putin vowed to build alternative systems for trade and settlements with North Korea that will not be controlled by the West and jointly resist “illegal and unilateral restrictions” in an apparent reference to international sanctions.

After the summit, Russia and North Korea signed inter-government agreements on healthcare, medical education and science cooperation, the Kremlin was quoted as saying by Russian news reports.

Experts said Russia is expected to assist North Korea’s space development program in exchange for Pyongyang’s arms supplies, but it is not likely to transfer sensitive weapons technology to Pyongyang.

In late May, North Korea’s attempt to launch a military spy satellite ended in failure as a satellite-carrying rocket exploded right after liftoff. In November last year, North Korea successfully placed a spy satellite into orbit, and it has a plan to launch three more such satellites in 2024.