In a recent development, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a stern warning on Thursday, highlighting the concerning growth of military ties between North Korea and Russia. During a press conference in Seoul, he urged China to play a pivotal role in restraining North Korea’s actions.
The United States, alongside its regional allies, South Korea and Japan, has been increasingly critical of North Korea’s involvement in supporting Russia’s efforts in Ukraine. South Korean authorities have even suggested that North Korea is exchanging space technology for weapons and munitions with Russia.
Antony Blinken’s remarks came after attending a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Japan. During his visit to Seoul, he held discussions with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and other top officials.
Blinken emphasized the deep concerns shared by the United States and South Korea regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and its worrisome military cooperation with Russia. He explained, “We are witnessing the DPRK providing military equipment to Russia to support its aggression in Ukraine, while Russia is reciprocating by providing technology and support for the DPRK’s own military programs.”
Both Russia and North Korea are currently under international sanctions. Russia faces these sanctions due to its invasion of Ukraine, while North Korea’s sanctions relate to its nuclear weapons and missile programs. The increasing military collaboration between these two nations has raised significant concerns, particularly after a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in September.
According to South Korea, North Korea is trading weapons for Russian space technology, potentially to launch a military spy satellite into orbit. Notably, the Kremlin has denied any evidence of North Korea supplying weapons to Russia.
Antony Blinken also called upon China, North Korea’s principal ally, to take responsibility in curbing Pyongyang’s weapons programs, including missile launches that he described as “irresponsible.”
Highlighting South Korea’s commitment, Blinken praised the country for its assistance to Ukraine. He also thanked South Korean President Yoon for pledging humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.
This diplomatic visit by Blinken to Asia follows his recent tour of the Middle East to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Analysts believe that South Korea is looking for reassurance of U.S. support and a reaffirmation of the United States’ commitment to uphold UN sanctions in light of the renewed cooperation between North Korea and Russia.
South Korea, a major arms exporter, has historically refrained from sending weapons to active conflict zones, but it may face continued pressure from the United States to reconsider this policy.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, emphasized the need for upgraded alliance cooperation, given the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Russia’s actions in Ukraine. South Korea has heightened security cooperation with the United States under the Yoon administration to counter growing threats from North Korea. This includes large-scale military drills and strategic deployments of U.S. assets in the region.
Furthermore, Blinken’s visit signifies the strengthening of the bilateral alliance, as the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, is also scheduled to visit South Korea later this month.