Putin In North Korea To Boost Defence Ties

Putin in North Korea to boost defence ties

Seoul, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 19th Jun, 2024) Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un kicked off a summit in Pyongyang on Wednesday, where they are likely to discuss ways to boost their sanctions-busting military ties.

Putin arrived in Kim Il Sung square, which was bedecked with Russian and North Korean flags along with large portraits of the two leaders, state media images showed, for a ceremony ahead of talks at the Kumsusan State Guest House, where a "strategic partnership" deal is likely to be signed.

Kim had earlier greeted Putin at the airport, with the two internationally isolated leaders hugging on the red carpet, underscoring the increasingly close relationship that has sparked concern in Seoul and Washington.

It is Putin's first trip to North Korea since 2000 and comes as Western countries accuse Kim of supplying arms to historic ally Russia for use in Ukraine in violation of UN sanctions on both countries, allegations Moscow and Pyongyang have officially denied.

It is also the two leaders' second meeting in a year, after Kim took his bulletproof train to Russia's far east last September for a summit with Putin at a space port.

Putin's return visit highlights the "invincibility and durability" of the bilateral relationship, the official Korean Central news Agency said in a Tuesday report.

Putin is travelling with a slew of Russian officials including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Experts have warned the trip is likely to focus on defence ties, although the leaders are expected to publicly highlight cooperation in the economic sector as any arms deals would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions banning Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

"Russia requires North Korea's weapon support due to the prolonged war in Ukraine, while North Korea needs Russia's support in terms of food, energy, and advanced weapons to alleviate the pressure from sanctions," Koh Yu-hwan, North Korean studies emeritus professor at Dongguk University told AFP.

"The military alliance aspect, however, should be viewed separately from what is publicly announced and what is actually discussed in the meetings between the two leaders," he said, adding Moscow was cautious about "completely burning bridges with countries like South Korea.

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- 'Arsenal for autocracy' -

Pyongyang has described allegations of supplying weapons to Russia as "absurd".

However, it thanked Russia in March for using its Security Council veto to effectively end monitoring of sanctions violations just as UN experts were starting to probe alleged arms transfers.

"Moscow and Pyongyang will likely continue to deny violations of international law but have notably shifted from hiding their illicit activities to flaunting their cooperation," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

The visit is a way for Putin to thank the North "for acting as an 'arsenal for autocracy' in support of his illegal invasion of Ukraine," he said.

The United States voiced "concern" Monday about Putin's trip over the security implications for South Korea as well as Ukraine.

The two Koreas have remained technically at war since their 1950-53 conflict and the border dividing them is one of the most heavily fortified in the world.

Highlighting those security concerns, South Korea said its troops fired warning shots at soldiers from the North who briefly crossed the border Tuesday and then retreated.

The South's military said it believed the North Korean soldiers accidentally crossed as they were fortifying the border, but said some were wounded after detonating landmines.

"This visit can be viewed as Russia's attempt to secure strategic space in Northeast Asia by deepening ties with North Korea at a time when cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan is strengthening," Seoul-based Institute for National Security Strategy's senior research fellow Kim Sung-bae told AFP.

"This intention is further evidenced by Putin's visit to Vietnam," he said, with the Russian leader set to fly to Hanoi after his trip to the North.