Seoul says N. Korea should seek int’l norms-based cooperation amid report of possible Kim-Putin summit

September 5, 2023

North Korea needs to seek cooperation with other nations in a way that does not hurt international norms and peace, South Korea’s unification ministry said Tuesday, in response to a report that the leaders of the North and Russia may meet next week for talks on a possible arms agreement.

The New York Times reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may travel to Vladivostok next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss a possible arms deal.

“In regard to this, cooperation between North Korea and a nearby country, in all forms, should be conducted in a direction that does not hurt international order and peace,” an official at Seoul’s ministry told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“The government, alongside the international community, is closely watching cooperative ties involving North Korea and has raised the reminder that all member countries of the United Nations have a duty to comply with the U.N. Security Council resolutions,” he added.

The report came amid growing speculation that North Korea may supply weapons to Russia for its use in the war with Ukraine as the North seeks to bolster ties with China and Russia amid growing security cooperation among South Korea, the United States and Japan.

Kim and Putin previously met in the eastern Russian city in April 2019, months after his talks with then U.S. President Donald Trump fell through in Hanoi.

More recently, the North invited a military delegation from Russia, led by its defense minister Sergei Shoigu, to the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang in a rare move following the COVID-19 breakout. During the visit, Kim gave a tour of an arms exhibition to Shoigu, further raising speculation over a possible arms deal.

“North Korea has been explicitly supporting Russia and boasting its ties to the country. … Under these circumstances, the chances of the North and Russia cooperating through an arms deal are becoming greater,” the official said.

During a closed-door briefing to the parliamentary intelligence committee Monday, Seoul’s spy agency was quoted as saying that Russia had proposed conducting three-way naval exercises with North Korea and China when Shoigu visited the North in late July.

North Korea has yet to hold joint military drills with any other country to date.