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South Korea Condemns Russia-North Korea Mutual Defense Agreement, Reconsiders Ukraine Policy

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s presidential office condemned a recent agreement between Russia and North Korea pledging mutual defence assistance in the event of war

In response, South Korea is reevaluating its policy of limiting support to Ukraine to non-lethal supplies.

The condemnation came from a senior presidential official after North Korea’s state media detailed the agreement reached during a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the agreement mandates both nations to provide immediate military aid if one is attacked.

Threat to South Korea’s Security

The office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol issued a statement denouncing the agreement, calling it a threat to South Korea’s security and a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The statement also warned of negative consequences for Seoul’s relations with Moscow.

A senior presidential official, speaking anonymously, indicated that South Korea might reconsider providing arms to Ukraine to assist in its defense against Russia’s invasion. South Korea, a significant arms exporter with a robust military supported by the United States, has thus far limited its aid to Ukraine to humanitarian support and has joined U.S.-led economic sanctions against Russia.

Details of the Russia-North Korea Agreement

Both Kim and Putin described their pact as a significant upgrade in bilateral relations, spanning security, trade, investment, cultural, and humanitarian ties. Observers noted this could be the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War. KCNA’s report highlighted that Article 4 of the agreement obligates immediate military assistance if either country is invaded, aligning with the laws of both nations and Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, which recognizes a member state’s right to self-defense.

Reaction and Implications

Yoon’s office criticized the agreement, pointing out the irony of two nations with histories of initiating invasions now pledging mutual defense against hypothetical preemptive attacks. The office also highlighted the adverse impact on South Korea-Russia relations, given Russia’s role as a permanent U.N. Security Council member that had previously supported sanctions against North Korea.

The summit raised concerns among the U.S. and its allies about a potential arms deal, where North Korea might supply Russia with munitions for its war in Ukraine, in exchange for economic aid and technology transfers that could bolster North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities.

Following the summit, Kim praised the agreement as the “strongest-ever treaty” with Russia, elevating their relationship to an alliance level. Putin hailed the agreement as a “breakthrough document” aimed at enhancing bilateral relations.

Historical Context and Future Implications

The 1961 treaty between North Korea and the Soviet Union, which required Soviet military intervention if North Korea was attacked, was replaced in 2000 with a less binding agreement. Analysts are divided on whether the new agreement fully restores the Cold War-era alliance or is largely symbolic.

Ankit Panda, a senior analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, noted that Article 4 of the agreement appears carefully worded to avoid implying automatic military intervention. However, the broad intention to expand cooperation significantly was clear.

Putin’s visit to North Korea, his first in 24 years, showcased strong personal and geopolitical ties, marked by elaborate ceremonies and displays of mutual respect. According to KCNA, the agreement also stipulates that both nations must avoid agreements with third parties that threaten their core interests and must prepare joint measures to bolster their defense capabilities.

The agreement further commits both countries to work towards a “just and multipolar new world order,” reflecting their alignment against the United States amid escalating confrontations.

Escalating Tensions on the Korean Peninsula

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have reached a peak, with North Korea intensifying its weapons tests and the U.S., South Korea, and Japan increasing their military exercises in response. The two Koreas have engaged in psychological warfare, including North Korea’s use of balloons to drop trash on the South and South Korea’s loudspeaker broadcasts of anti-North Korean propaganda.

Kim Jong Un’s recent focus on strengthening ties with Russia highlights his strategy of aligning with countries opposing the United States, signaling a “new Cold War” era in international relations.

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