Russia pledges to ‘expand’ ties with North Korea

·2-min read
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, in April 2019.  (REUTERS)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia, in April 2019. (REUTERS)

Russia has said its relationship with North Korea will “expand” – with Moscow facing an international backlash to its invasion of Ukraine.

In a letter to Kim to mark the anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japan in 1945, the Russian president pledged to their “comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations”, according to North Korean state media.

The KCNA news agency said Kim responded to his Russian counterpart by saying the two countries were closer than ever.

Pyongyang and Moscow’s relations have been strengthened by their work to counter threats from hostile forces, Kim added in his return letter. Although he did not name the US and its allies directly, he has used similar language to describe them in the past.

North Korea’s support for Russia was demonstrated earlier this year when it recognised the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent from Ukraine. In July, Pyongyang also said North Korean workers could be dispatched to these areas to help with construction efforts.

The country has also repeatedly blamed Washington for the Ukraine war, claiming the US’ “hegemonic policy” drove Moscow to invade its neighbour in an act of self-defence.

The latest correspondence between the Russian and North Korean leaders comes as Washington and Seoul warned that Pyongyang could be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017.

The Biden administration has threatened to introduce further sanctions against North Korea if the drill takes place. However, it has not spelled out how it would punish the Kim regime in the event of a nuclear test.

North Korea has launched more than 30 ballistic missiles to date in 2022, far more than it has done in recent years.

Seoul continues to encourage its northern neighbour to denuclearise, pledging to give it financial support if it does so.

South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol reiterated this message on Monday, saying his country would supply the north with food, electrical infrastructure and the means to modernise its ports and airports if Pyongyang took such a step. This would “significantly” improve the lives of the North Korean people, he said.

“We will also help improve North Korea’s agricultural production, provide assistance to modernise its hospitals and medical infrastructure, and carry out initiatives to allow for international investment and financial support,” he added.

However, Pyongyang is unlikely to be swayed by such words. Over the weekend, one of its senior official hit out at the UN secretary general Antonio Guterres for backing the complete denuclearisation of North Korea.

Kim Son Gyong said the UN boss had made remarks “that grossly lack impartiality”, adding that attempts to make it give up its nuclear arsenal infringed upon its sovereignty.

Additional reporting from agencies