Trying to avoid their budding relationship turning into a “Careless Whisper”, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Supreme Leader Jim Jong-un recently had a meeting to solidify their relationship and deepen the bond. Standing and sharing a deep and meaningful gaze into each other’s eyes, the duo posed for cameras as they raised the champagne glasses.
Coming on August 15th, North Korea’s Liberation Day holiday, they commemorated the defeat of Japan and the removal of Korea from Tokyo’s rule. To commemorate the event, the two pledged that they will “continue to expand” their ties according to North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). They also exchanged letters.
According to KCNA, Kim vowed relations “based on comradely friendship and militant unity would grow stronger in all fields.” He also gave Putin wishes of “big success in his responsible work for defending the sovereignty and interests of the country and people and achieving the prosperity of the country.”
Putin likewise made vows of his own, promising they “would continue to expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts.” Adding in that their closer bond “would entirely conform with the interests of the peoples of the two countries and contribute to strengthening the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the whole of the Northeastern Asian region.”
These kinds of promises between these nations are uncommon with the leaders specifically, but given their outsider stance due to US sanctions, they are grasping at whatever lifeline they may have to salvage their countries and possibly get some trade going again. Given the relationship, each nation already has with China, and the rough courting with Iran, they have a lot in common.
July is when this courtship got serious. With North Korea being the first country apart from Russia to recognize the pro-Russian breakaway republics of Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine, they gained Russia as an ally while Kyiv severed any diplomatic ties that existed. Kim used this to find more common ground with Russia as he proclaimed that both Moscow and Pyongyang are “put on a new high stage in the common front for frustrating the hostile forces’ military threat and provocation.”
While he failed to expand upon who the “hostile forces” might be, all prior rhetoric and statements would indicate that he was implying the US and South Korea. Kim’s actions since his country got its first cases of COVID earlier this year have been nothing short of unstable. He has gone out of his way to blame the US and South Korea for anything he possibly could and given his bout with COVID almost taking him out, it’s not surprising.
Kim’s response to getting COVID in the first place was to vow extermination of both COVID and South Korea. This kind of threat is not unusual for the country, but they have been ramping up their military procedures. With 18 rounds of weapons testing so far in 2022, and their first intercontinental ballistic missile tests in nearly five years, both Seoul and Washington are certain that another nuclear test from North Korea is imminent.
The saber-rattling from the tiny nation has been frequent for decades, only really being silenced when we had President Trump in office. Then again, he also was more than willing to meet with Kim and talk to him face to face. Other Presidents haven’t taken that opportunity, and Kim’s father was notoriously more difficult to find common ground with.
China is helping this tripod of a relationship stay upright as well. Providing the Russians with tanks, and vetoing a US-led UN resolution to put more restrictions on North Korea back in May, they have been incredibly helpful. They have also increased the concern of a deeper geopolitical divide that could easily split the globe and launch us into WWIII if this relationship gets any deeper.