Kim Jong-un’s reported plans to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin this month reveal the lengths the North Korean leader would be willing to go to woo Moscow as a strategic partner in countering US interests.The reclusive leader is famously paranoid about his security, rarely stepping beyond the sealed borders of his regime, and shunning air travel where possible in favour of a bottle green train of 21 bulletproof carriages.If Kim does personally make the trip to Vladivostok, it suggests the meeting with Mr Putin goes far beyond an arms deal and reinforces a deeper alliance of convenience between two pariah states who increasingly view an opportunity to upset Washington’s policies in Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific.For Pyongyang – intent on pursuing its nuclear weapons programme – tighter partnerships with Russia and China help break its diplomatic isolation to become part of a united front against the United States, which is seeking greater regional security cooperation with South Korea and Japan.There is undoubtedly concern in Washington, Tokyo and Seoul about what both Russia and North Korea could get out of a military cooperation deal.Mr Putin, bogged down in his war with Ukraine, wants Kim’s stocks of artillery shells and anti-tank missiles, while North Korea seeks Russia’s help with advanced technology for satellites and nuclear-powered submarines, as well as food for its malnourished people, US officials told the New York Times.Such a mutually beneficial transaction would allow Russia to replenish depleted arms supplies while boosting Kim’s image domestically as a statesman and enabling North Korea to evade sanctions intended to block the expansion of its own nuclear arsenal.North Korea is banned from developing weapons that use ballistic missile technology by United Nations Security Council resolutions that have previously been backed by all permanent members, including Russia and China.But tensions among UNSC members over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make the likelihood of Moscow playing a constructive role in managing tensions on the Korean Peninsula less realistic than ever.
It rather presents the chance to be a thorn in America’s side.The two leaders, pictured in 2019, have previously met in the port city of Vladivostok – GettyAs he set out for a series of regional summits, culminating in the G20 in India next week, Yoon Suk Yeol, South Korea’s president, said he would urge world leaders to faithfully enforce UN sanctions on North Korea and block the country’s illicit activities to fund its weapons programmes.In recent years, both China and Russia have repeatedly stymied US-led attempts to toughen sanctions, while being accused of failing to enforce existing curbs.In a further sign of their advancing trilateral ties, South Korea’s spy agency warned on Monday that Russia had likely proposed North Korea join three-way naval exercises with China.President Yoon’s appeal for international assistance in maintaining peace on the Peninsula comes 20 years – almost to the day – of the start of the “six-party talks” where the US, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Russia sat round a table to discuss security concerns about Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.In an era of rapidly shifting geopolitical alliances, it’s hard to imagine how this diplomatic scenario could once again come to pass.There remains the possibility that Kim’s trip may never take place.
Some have suggested that by making US intelligence on the visit public.
the ‘leaks’ may discourage the secretive leader from going.“If it’s known that he’s planning to go to Vladivostok to meet President Putin, he’s likely just to cancel the whole thing,” John Everard, a former UK ambassador to Pyongyang, told the BBC.Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism.
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