A handshake against a backdrop of missile fire. Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un shook hands on Wednesday September 13 at the Russian Vostochny cosmodrome in eastern Russia, just hours after the firing of two North Korean ballistic missiles. Koreans heading to Japan. And from the outset, the Russian president set the tone for the content of this summit which is taking place more than a thousand kilometers from Vladivostok: “Russia will help North Korea build satellites” declared Vladimir Putin, specifying that he would discuss “all subjects” with his North Korean counterpart, particularly military cooperation.
A year and a half after the start of the Russian military offensive in Ukraine, this opportunistic rapprochement between Russia and North Korea has made the United States fear a massive sale of North Korean arms to Moscow, which sorely needs them. in his war. Smiling, Kim Jong Un stressed upon his arrival that North Korea will make ties with Russia the “absolute priority” of its diplomacy. “I take this opportunity to affirm that we will always be with Russia,” he insisted, specifying that this meeting was “a springboard” for closer relations with Russia.
And it is no coincidence that Kim Jong-un, who needs to perfect his satellite launch technology, meets Vladimir Putin at the Russian Vostochny rocket launch base built in 2015. “The leader of South Korea North shows great interest in rocket technology. They are trying to develop their space program,” Vladimir Putin said again according to Russian press agencies, before giving Kim Jong-un a guided tour of a rocket assembly and launch site.
Russia will help North Korea
Beyond military space that North Korea wishes to modernize, Russia is seeking, according to many experts, to obtain weapons supplies from Pyongyang. “North Korea has phenomenal stockpiles of weapons and ammunition,” assures Lee Byong-chul, a North Korea specialist at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.
Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, Pyongyang has been preparing to go to war against South Korea. The hermit country has been running its arms factories for 70 years without ever having used all these weapons because it has never gone to war with anyone. “And all of its weaponry, shells or missiles, is compatible with Russian systems,” Lee Byong-chul further specifies.
Russian humanitarian aid
“It’s a win-win,” analyzes academic specialist in Korean affairs Leif-Eric Easley in the columns of the Japan Times in Tokyo. “However, this summit will give rise to arms agreements, but Russia and North Korea will not make public the details of this cooperation because it violates international resolutions” which affect the two countries.
The relationship between the two leaders has the appearance of barter: Vladimir Putin hopes that Kim Jong-un will deliver shells and missiles to him in exchange for satellite and nuclear submarine technology. On the eve of his trip to Russia, Kim Jong-un explained that it “shows the importance of rapprochement between Moscow and Pyongyang at a time when ties between the United States, Japan and South Korea are strengthening “.
Additionally, while North Korea has remained completely isolated from the world since the Covid pandemic in 2020, the food situation is catastrophic. Latest UN figures show that almost half of North Korea’s 23 million people suffer from hunger. Kim Jong-un will seek massive food aid from Russia.