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Resumption of North Korea-Russia Diplomacy, Korean Diplomacy Faltering
  • By Kim So-ha, cub-reporter
  • 승인 2023.10.04 01:16
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▲ North Korean leader Kim Jong-un looking at Russian fighter jets during his visit to Russia (Source : Yonhap News)

Amid worsening diplomatic relations between South Korea and Russia, North Korea announced on the 17th that they would strengthen military cooperation between the two countries through a summit with Russia. North Korean leader Kim Jong- un, who wrapped up his six- day visit to Russia, the longest overseas trip ever, further raised the level of cooperation between the countries by discussing arms trade and support for Russian high- tech through the first North Korea- Russia summit in four years and five months. In response, President Yoon Suk- Yeol strongly criticized the arms trade between North Korea and Russia in his keynote speech at the U.N. General Assembly on the 20th, calling for a cohesive response from the international community.

South Korea and Russia have maintained a steady, friendly relationship for the past 30 years. After diplomatic ties in September 1990, all Korean governments have worked hard to establish Korea- Russia relations. The relationship between Korea and Russia began to falter after the beginning of the Ukraine War in late February 2022. South Korea, which participated in sanctions against Russia by the U.S. and the European Union, was listed on the list of, "non- friendly countries," promulgated to Russia on March 7 of last year. On April 19 this year, President Yoon Suk- Yeol replied in a Reuters interview, "When there is a serious violation of war laws, such as a large- scale attack on civilians or genocide, that cannot be tolerated in the international community, it may be difficult to stick to humanitarian or financial aid alone." This was a strong indication that South Korea could provide Ukraine with lethal weapons.

In response, Russian foreign affairs spokesman, Mariya Zakharova, said the following day, "Any weapons delivery to Ukraine will be considered hostile to Russia. Such actions by South Korea could affect our approach to the Korean Peninsula," he said. On the same day, the Russian Embassy in Seoul also warned that the measures would, "destroy Russia-Korea relations and have very negative consequences for interaction within the security situation on the Korean Peninsula."

But in July of the same year, President Yoon- Suk Yeol visited Ukraine and met with President Zelensky, saying, "If we fight together in the spirit of 'Those who seek death shall live, Those who seek life shall die,' we will certainly protect freedom and democracy," adding, "We will provide more military supplies this year, after providing military supplies such as body armor and helmets last year." In addition, President Yoon participated in the G20 summit in New Delhi, India, on September 10 and announced his plan to cooperate to rebuild Ukraine. On the same day, President Yoon promised to provide 300 million dollars in free aid to Ukraine next year and 2 billion dollars in paid aid from 2025, announcing a plan to provide a total of 2.3 billion dollars. In response, Russia held a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong- un on the 12th of the same month and eventually decided to strengthen relations with North Korea for the first time in 30 years.

Chairman Kim Jong- un entered Russia on the 12th and completed a summit with President Putin at the Vostochini Space Base, Russia's key space industry base, on the 13th. After the meeting, Chairman Kim made a move focusing on military cooperation before returning home on the 16th, touring Russia's Far East and inspecting Russia's strategic weapons system. Regarding the summit, some speculated that an agreement was reached to promise Russia's high- tech support, such as the development of satellites, and to trade arms, such as North Korea's artillery shells and ammunition, in return. However, Russia countered that, "military cooperation between North Korea and Russia is groundless speculation."

Amid growing concerns over military cooperation between North Korea and Russia, the Yoon Suk- Yeol government's continued confrontation with Russia is interpreted as part of South Korea- U.S.- Japan cooperation. Currently, the U.S. has come up with a plan to impose large- scale sanctions on companies involved in supplying Russia with war supplies, while Japan is strongly critical of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Attention is focusing on the Yoon administration's future diplomatic moves now that major changes are expected in Korea's international situation.

By Kim So-ha, cub-reporter  lucky.river16@gmail.com

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