How the Russia-North Korea defense pact energizes the dictatorship alliance

FPI / June 28, 2024


By Richard Fisher

In the year 2010 North Korea was correctly a pariah state, isolated by layers of sanctions from the United States, the United Nations and other democracies, while its attempts at missile proliferation were intercepted on the high seas.

North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un famously gazes at a Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile during a September 2023 visit to Russia, which may now be sold to Pyongyang in accordance with the June 19, 2024 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Treaty. / Russian state media

Both China and Russia held their noses as they dealt quietly with the horrid Kim family dictatorship in Pyongyang.

China began to undo decades of international cooperation in isolating Pyongyang in 2011 when it began to openly arm North Korea with sophisticated 16-wheel transporter erector launchers (TELs) from its China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) for its future family of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).

Building such TELs for Pyongyang would require intimate knowledge of the missiles to be carried, a strong indicator that Chinese companies were in the middle of what has been a remarkable decade for North Korean missile and nuclear weapons modernization and buildup.

Fifteen years later China and Russia are at the center of a rapidly developing alliance of dictatorships that has long included deep Chinese economic and military aid to the radical mullahs of Iran, strong military technical cooperation between North Korea and Iran, and now includes a rapidly blossoming Russia-North Korea military alliance.

Revealed during Vladimir Putin June 19 visit to Pyongyang, Russia and North Korea have revived their Soviet era defense alliance in their new “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Treaty.”

On June 20, North Korean state media released a copy of the Treaty which contains provision for active military cooperation in the event of either being attacked:

“In case a direct threat of armed invasion is created against any one of the two sides, the two sides shall immediately operate the channel of bilateral negotiations for the purpose of adjusting their stands at the request of any one side and discussing feasible practical measures to ensure mutual assistance for removing the prevailing threat.

“In case any one of the two sides is put in a state of war by an armed invasion from an individual state or several states, the other side shall provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession without delay in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter and the laws of the DPRK and the Russian Federation.”

One immediate implication of these clauses is that North Korea will be included in bi-lateral and even multilateral military exercises with China.

Russia has already proposed naval exercises with North Korea, which would greatly increase North Korean naval combat capability by exposing its naval forces for first time in decades to modern naval combat operations.

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