Russia and North Korea sign partnership deal that appears to be the strongest since Cold War


Seoul: Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a new partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country is attacked, during a Wednesday summit that came as both face escalating standoffs with the West.

The deal, which the leaders said covered areas including security, trade, investment, and cultural and humanitarian ties, could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Both leaders described it as a major upgrade of their ties.

The two met as Putin visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years. The summit came as the US and its allies express growing concerns over an arms arrangement in which the country provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile programme.

Kim said that the deal was the “strongest ever treaty” between the two nations, putting the relationship at the level of an alliance, and vowed full support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Putin said that it was a “breakthough document” reflecting shared desire to move relations to a higher level.

The North Korean leader gave Putin a lavish welcome, meeting him at the airport Tuesday night, where the two shook hands, hugged twice and then rode together in a limousine in a huge motorcade that rolled through the capital’s brightly illuminated streets, where buildings were decorated with giant Russian flags and portraits of Putin.

After spending the rest of the night at a state guest house, Putin attended a welcoming ceremony at the city’s main square, filled with what appeared to be tens of thousands of spectators, including children holding balloons and people wearing coordinated t-shirts in the red, white and blue of the Russian and North Korean flags. Huge crowds lined up on the streets to greet Putin’s motorcade, chanting “Welcome Putin” and waving flowers and North Korean and Russian flags.

Putin and Kim saluted an honour guard and walked across a red carpet. Kim then introduced key members of his leadership including Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui; top aide and ruling party secretary Jo Yong Won; and the leader’s powerful sister, Kim Yo Jong.

As the talks began, Putin thanked Kim for North Korea’s support for his war in Ukraine, part of what he said was a “fight against the imperialist hegemonistic policies of the US and its satellites against the Russian Federation”.

Putin hailed ties that he traced back to the Soviet army fighting the Japanese military on the Korean Peninsula in the closing moments of World War II, and Moscow’s support for Pyongyang during the Korean War.

Kim said Moscow and Pyongyang’s “fiery friendship” is now even closer than during Soviet times, and promised “full support and solidarity to the Russian government, army and people in carrying out the special military operation in Ukraine to protect sovereignty, security interests and territorial integrity”.

It wasn’t immediately clear what that support might look like. Kim has used similar language in the past, consistently

saying North Korea supports what he describes as a just action to protect Russia’s interests and blaming the crisis on the US-led West’s “hegemonic policy”.

North Korea is under heavy UN Security Council sanctions over its weapons program, while Russia also faces sanctions by the United States and its Western partners over its aggression in Ukraine.