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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's extended trip to Russia has raised concerns that the two isolated countries may be negotiating banned weapons transfer deals.
Since arriving in Russia on Tuesday, Kim has met President Vladimir Putin and toured aircraft and technology facilities, signaling deepening Pyongyang-Moscow ties.
Experts speculate Kim may supply ammunition to Russia for its war in Ukraine in exchange for advanced Russian weapons and technology.
On Friday, Kim visited a factory producing Russia's most sophisticated Su-57 fighter jet and Su-35 aircraft in Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
Kim applauded after viewing a demonstration flight, underscoring potential defense industry cooperation.
Russia's Deputy PM Denis Manturov, who accompanied Kim, noted prospects for aviation and other joint ventures to aid "technological sovereignty."
The summit with Putin on Wednesday occurred at the Vostochny space launch site, hinting at collaboration in rocketry, which Putin confirmed given Kim's interest in space technology.
Kim's 2019 Russia trip also focused on sanctions relief, but Putin now needs arms to replenish depleted stocks for the Ukraine war. In return, Kim seeks to modernize North Korea's dated air force and navy.
The US accuses North Korea of supplying weapons to Russia.
Since 2022, the US has accused North Korea of providing ammunition, artillery and rockets to Russia, likely Soviet-era copies. Officials say North Korean munitions have already been utilized in Ukraine.
On Thursday, the US, South Korean and Japanese national security advisers held talks expressing grave concerns about Russia-North Korea weapons deals, warning of consequences.
They reiterated commitment to North Korean denuclearization and noted any arms exports to Russia would directly violate multiple UNSC resolutions that Russia itself approved.
Comments from US and South Korean officials on Friday further condemned Russian attempts to procure North Korean weapons.
However, South Korea ruled out providing lethal aid to Ukraine in retaliation, only supplying non-lethal equipment given its policy against assisting countries at war.
Analysts also question how willing Russia would be to share sensitive military technologies with North Korea in return for its outdated conventional arms. But Russia's urgent military needs may override such hesitations.
Putin Bullish on Russia-North Korea Ties, Avoids Weapons Talk
Putin was upbeat about cooperation in spheres like transport and agriculture, providing humanitarian assistance but evading questions on military ties.
He confirmed accepting Kim's invitation to visit Pyongyang and Russia's foreign minister will travel to North Korea in October.
At the summit, Kim pledged North Korea's "full and unconditional support" for Russia's "just fight" against "hegemonic forces", alluding to the Ukraine war. But official reporting on Kim's Russia visit remains limited, with more propaganda expected trumpeting Kim's activities.
Key Factors Driving Russia's Outreach to North Korea
Several factors are catalyzing Russia's outreach to North Korea:
- Replenishing Military Stocks: Russia has experienced severe ammunition and equipment losses in Ukraine. North Korean arms can help plug shortfalls.
- Accessing North Korean Technology: Russia could gain useful knowledge regarding North Korea's missile, nuclear and cyber capabilities.
- Applying Pressure on the US: Engagement with North Korea compels the US to divert intelligence and military assets from Ukraine.
- Creating a US Foreign Policy Quandary: Weapons deals with North Korea will confront the US with a tough choice of focusing on Russia or North Korean denuclearization.
- Leveraging Historical Ties: Russia backed North Korea during the Korean War. Their communist links foster amicability.
- Countering Western Sanctions: New Russia-North Korea trade could offset economic damage from US-led sanctions.
Possible Assistance Russia Could Provide to North Korea
In return for arms supplies, Russia may aid North Korea's military modernization through:
- Advanced aircraft and missile technology to improve air and naval capacity
- Expertise and equipment for North Korea's nuclear and missile programs
- Cyber warfare capabilities to enhance North Korea's hacking skills
- Training North Korean pilots and technicians in Russia
- Circumventing sanctions to transfer dual-use technology
- Energy infrastructure investments and food exports
Concerns for the United States and Its Allies
Closer Russia-North Korea collaboration has worrying implications for US interests and regional stability:
- Accelerating North Korea's nuclear and missile advancements
- Russia assisting North Korean circumvention of sanctions
- Increased risk of North Korean proliferation of nuclear and missile technology
- Pressure on US alliance with South Korea and Japan
- Further challenges in denuclearizing North Korea
- Russia gaining economic and political leverage over North Korea
- Potential stationing of Russian military assets in North Korea
To mitigate risks, the US and allies will likely enhance deterrence, strengthen information sharing, enforce sanctions strictly and continue urging North Korean denuclearization. But with both Russia and North Korea highly isolated, their strategic calculus strongly favors bolstering ties. Containing spill-over risks from this growing alignment will test US diplomacy and alliances in new ways.
Summarised from the original article by - apnews.com
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