Thursday Briefing: Russia and North Korea’s Defense Pledge

By John Mercury June 22, 2024

President Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un revived a Cold War-era mutual defense pledge between Russia and North Korea yesterday.

They promised to provide each other with “mutual assistance in the event of aggression,” but it was unclear if such assistance would mean full-fledged military intervention, as the now-defunct 1961 treaty specified.

But Putin said that Russia “does not exclude the development of military-technical cooperation” with North Korea, per the new agreement. He also promised unspecified technological help. If that includes a few critical technologies Kim has sought to perfect, it could help the North better target its adversaries, starting with the U.S.

Putin also seems done with his years of helping to curb North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. “Pyongyang has the right to take reasonable measures to strengthen its own defense capability, ensure national security and protect sovereignty,” he said yesterday, though he did not address whether that included further developing the North’s nuclear weapons.


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