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South Korea criticizes the Russia-North Korea agreement and mulls sending weapons to Ukraine

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The recent agreement between Russia and North Korea that promised mutual defense aid in the event of conflict was denounced on Thursday by the presidential office of South Korea. The office declared that it will reevaluate its strategy of providing only non-lethal goods to Ukraine as support.

Details of the deal were struck during a summit in Pyongyang between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to information supplied by North Korea’s official media. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), if an invasion occurs in either country, the agreement requires both countries to offer quick military support with all resources at their disposal.

The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol denounced the deal, claiming that it violated UN Security Council resolutions and posed a threat to South Korea’s security. The administration issued a warning, saying Seoul’s relations with Moscow would suffer as a result of the arrangement.

Speaking under anonymity, a top South Korean presidential official hinted that Seoul will reevaluate its position on arming Ukraine. With support from the US, South Korea has been an increasing arms exporter with a well-equipped military. Following a long-standing policy of avoiding selling weaponry to nations actively involved in conflict, it has abstained from delivering weapons to Ukraine even while it has supported U.S.-led economic sanctions against Moscow and given humanitarian help.

Hailed as a major improvement in bilateral relations including security, commerce, investment, cultural exchanges, and humanitarian links, Kim and Putin signed the accord. Experts speculate that since the conclusion of the Cold War, relations between Moscow and Pyongyang may have never been stronger. According to KCNA’s report, Article 4 of the agreement states that, in accordance with both national laws and Article 51 of the UN Charter, which guarantees a member state’s right to self-defense, each country shall use all available means to provide military and other assistance if the other is invaded.

The meeting was held in the midst of mounting worries from the United States and its allies on a potential arms deal that might see Pyongyang giving Moscow ammunition for its conflict in Ukraine. North Korea would get technical transfers and economic support in return, which may increase the threat posed by Kim’s nuclear weapons and missile development.

After the summit, Kim Jong Un referred to the agreement as their “strongest-ever treaty,” comparing it to an alliance, and characterized the two nations’ relationship as a “fiery friendship”. Putin referred to it as a “breakthrough document,” indicating a shared goal to improve ties.

In 1961, North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a deal that required Moscow to intervene militarily in the event that the North was attacked. Following the fall of the USSR, this pact was abandoned and was replaced in 2000 by a less robust deal. South Korean authorities were still analyzing the treaty’s ramifications the day following the summit, including Russia’s possible retaliation in the event that North Korea is attacked. Analysts disagreed about whether the agreement’s wording required Russia to automatically intervene militarily or not. There were also concerns about the agreement’s reference to the United Nations charter.

Speaking on behalf of South Korea’s Foreign Ministry, Lim Soosuk regretted the Moscow-Pyongyang deal, pointing out that it could have violated resolutions of the UN Security Council. Lim promised that South Korea will respond to acts endangering its security with firmness and decisiveness, working with its foreign partners.

During Putin’s first trip to North Korea in 24 years, the deal was concluded. The visit demonstrated their strong geopolitical and personal relations, as seen by Kim Jong Un’s warm greeting, which included two embraces with Putin at the airport and a vehicle parade past enormous Russian flags and images of Putin before a lavish celebration in Pyongyang’s central plaza.

The pact further states, according to KCNA, that neither country may engage in activities that jeopardize the other’s “core interests” or enter into third-party agreements that violate those interests. The agreement calls for coordinated actions to improve defense capacities, avert conflict, and safeguard regional and international peace; however, the precise nature of these actions—including possible integrated military training—was not specified.

In addition, the pact reflects their alliance against the United States and its allies by calling for active collaboration in the establishment of a “just and multipolar new world order.” Kim Jong Un has made Russia a top priority in his foreign policy in recent months, seeking to forge closer connections with nations that oppose Washington, adopting a “new Cold War” language, and uniting with Putin to oppose the West.

With North Korea ramping up its nuclear testing and intensifying military drills involving the US, South Korea, Japan, and other countries, tensions on the Korean Peninsula have heightened. Psychological warfare reminiscent of the Cold War has also been employed in this cycle, as shown in North Korea’s trash-dropping balloon missions and South Korea’s anti-North Korean propaganda broadcasts.

South Korea’s review of its approach to Ukraine in light of the changing geopolitical environment suggests a possible reversal in its foreign policy and military planning in reaction to the growing risks associated with the Russia-North Korea accord.

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