On Wednesday, South Korea’s president cautioned fellow global leaders regarding recent communication and potential collaboration between North Korea and Russia. He expressed concerns that any actions taken by a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to bypass international norms would be perilous and contradictory.
Addressing the U.N. General Assembly, Yoon Suk Yeol referred to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s recent visit to Russia, a member of the Security Council’s permanent five, the most influential group within the U.N.
During their meeting in Russia’s Far East, Kim and Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted at potential cooperation on defense matters but provided no concrete details. This ambiguity left South Korea and its allies, including the United States, uneasy.
Yoon emphasized the paradox of a permanent U.N. Security Council member entrusted with upholding global peace, engaging in warfare by invading another sovereign nation and receiving military support from a regime that openly violates Security Council resolutions. He delivered this message to fellow leaders during the second day of the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering.
Yoon further asserted that if North Korea were to enhance its weapons of mass destruction capabilities in exchange for providing conventional weaponry to Russia, such an arrangement would be unacceptable to South Korea. He argued that such a deal between Russia and North Korea would constitute a direct provocation endangering Ukraine, the Republic of Korea, and its allies and partners.
South Korea has expressed its support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, pledging $300 million in assistance for next year, with a support package valued at over $2 billion in the long term.
Yoon also highlighted the significant threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs, not only to South Korea but also to peace in the Indo-Pacific region and globally.
Foreign experts speculate that Russia and North Korea may pursue arms transfer agreements violating Security Council resolutions. Both countries are embroiled in disputes with Western nations and face international sanctions.
While concerns persist that Russian-North Korean cooperation could bolster Russia’s military efforts in Ukraine, it has also raised apprehensions in South Korea. Many fear that Russia’s transfer of advanced weapons technology could enable North Korea to acquire capabilities such as a functional spy satellite, a nuclear-powered submarine, and more potent missiles.
On Tuesday, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Chang Ho-jin summoned the Russian ambassador to Seoul, Andrey Kulik, and called on Moscow to immediately cease its military cooperation with North Korea, warning of the negative consequences this could have on South Korea’s relations with Russia.
North Korea has been steadily expanding its nuclear arsenal for years, escalating regional tensions by threatening to use nuclear weapons in conflicts and conducting frequent missile tests, particularly in the past year.
In response, Yoon and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed to expand joint military exercises, increase temporary deployments of U.S. strategic assets, and establish a bilateral nuclear consultative group in April.
The Korean Peninsula remains divided into South Korea, supported by the United States and following a capitalist system, and North Korea, backed by the Soviet Union’s successor states and adhering to a socialist ideology. This division dates back to the end of World War II in 1945 after the liberation from Japan’s colonial rule. The Korean War from 1950 to 1953 resulted in the enduring separation of the two countries, which technically remained in a state of war 70 years after an armistice was signed.
Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, presides over an autocratic government and represents the third generation of his family to rule, following his father, Kim Jong Il, who passed away in 2011, and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, a former guerrilla leader who founded the state.