South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol has warned that the international community will unite more strongly in the face of soaring military cooperation between growing military cooperation between its prime rival North Korea and Russia, and further asserted that he will raise the issue at the UN General Assembly this week.
His remarks come amidst North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's visit to Russia, where he met President Vladimir Putin and both visited weapon and technology sites. Kim’s visit to Russia has sparked Western concerns about an arms alliance to aid Russian President Vladimir Putin in the war against Ukraine.
Both the countries are locked in separate confrontations with the United States, and Kim is trying to boost military cooperation in which North Korea could trade munitions in exchange for Russian technologies to advance his military nuclear programme and much-needed economic aid.
The US and South Korean officials have expressed apprehensions that North Korea may provide munitions for Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine in exchange for sophisticated Russian weapons technology for Kim’s nuclear ambitions.
"Military cooperation between North Korea and Russia is illegal and unjust as it contravenes UN Security Council resolutions and various other international sanctions. The international community will unite more tightly in response to such a move," said Yoon to AP before departing for New York.
Yoon is expected to address his assessment of moves made by Russia and North Korea and how his government are planning countermeasures with the help of the US, Japan and other allies. Pyongyang has started advancing its nuclear arsenal and making 'war preparations' in response to military drills between the US and South Korea.
Russia, North Korea and Ukraine
Russia seeks to embolden its diminishing supplies in Ukraine with the help of North Korea, while the latter seeks much-needed economic aid and advanced technologies from Moscow. Since his visit to Russia, Kim has inspected some of the most advanced weapons systems there, including nuclear-capable bombers, fighter jets, hypersonic missiles and a warship and vowed 'unconditional support' for Putin.
North Korea has grown closer to Russia since the latter's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Speculations over military cooperation between the countries grew after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made a rare visit to an arms exhibition and military parade in North Korea in July. Pyongyang has also made concerted efforts to provide a united front against the US.
To counter North Korea's role in the Ukraine war, some South Koreans have called on the government to consider sending lethal weapons to Kyiv. However, South Korea’s Defense Ministry said its policy of not supplying weapons to countries at war remained unchanged.
It is also worth mentioning that amidst the Russia-Ukraine war, Kyiv has received plenty of military and economic aid from its Western allies. The US recently announced a new $250 million package for Ukraine and South Korea is set to provide an additional $300 million to Kyiv next year - which includes demining equipment, emergency evacuation vehicles, pickup trucks, medical supplies, tablet PCs and other items.
Tensions with North Korea
With North Korea openly threatening to use nuclear weapons against enemies, the US and South Korea have agreed to expand joint military exercises and increase temporary deployments of US strategic assets in Seoul. The North Korean side sees these developments as rehearsal for invasion.
“Our two countries (South Korea and the US) reaffirmed that any nuclear attack by North Korea will be met with a swift, overwhelming and decisive response that will bring about the end of the regime,” Yoon said, adding that the two countries will develop a joint system to address issues emanating from North Korea and take action.
Kim said he would bolster efforts to build powerful warships and modernize shipboard and underwater weapons systems for the North's navy. He called for the country's sailors to build “overwhelming ideological and spiritual strength,” saying that is more important than the numerical or technical superiority of weapons, according to KCNA.
North Korea launched a nuclear attack submarine earlier this month as part of efforts to counter the naval power of the United States and its allies in Asia. The submarine has been in development for several years amid tensions with the US.
The North Korean Supreme Leader also shared plans of remodeling its existing submarines and surface vessels for nuclear purposes, calling it an "urgent task". Pyongyang has also been testing a variety of missiles as part of its 'war preparations' and the latest addition to its nuclear arsenal is a major source of worry for South Korea and Japan, both of whom are key US allies.
(with AP inputs)