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Putin and Kim Jong Un vow to protect each other if attacked

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attend the official welcome ceremony in the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, 19 June 2024
Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attend the official welcome ceremony in the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, 19 June 2024 Copyright Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Copyright Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
By Tamsin Paternoster with AP
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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un assured the Russian president of his "full support" for Russia's war in Ukraine as the suspicions rise that two countries have a deal potentially trading munitions for economic and technological assistance.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a pact that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country is attacked after a two-hour one-on-one meeting on Wednesday.

The deal, described as a "comprehensive strategic partnership", will replace treaties from 1961 and 2000-2001, Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported.

At a press conference after the signing, Kim called the agreement the "strongest treaty ever" between the two countries.

The pact includes co-operation in various areas including economy, politics, culture and military with Putin quoted as saying military-technical cooperation between the two would not be ruled out.

Russian presidential assistant Yuri Ushakov told the Russian outlet the document would not be directed against any other country and would comply with international law.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands prior to their talks in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un shake hands prior to their talks in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, June 19, 2024. Gavriil Grigorov/Sputnik

Putin was welcomed in a lavish ceremony before talks began while huge crowds lined the streets waving North Korean and Russian flags ahead of the meeting.

During the meeting, Kim assured Putin of his "full support" for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Putin began discussions by expressing appreciation for North Korea's support, stating that Russia is battling "decades of imposed US imperialist policies". The leaders of the two countries are both vocal critics of the West.

Russia and North Korea are under stringent sanctions, with Pyongyang subject to penalisation from the United Nations for its nuclear weapons programmes and Russia facing economic sanctions from the West due to its invasion of Ukraine.

Secret tech aid

Last October, North Korea delivered over 1,000 containers of military equipment and munitions to Russia.

In January, over 50 nations signed a statement accusing Russia of firing ballistic missiles from North Korea on two occasions.

The European Union and the US are among those denouncing the alleged transfer of weapons.

The US, in particular, has floated concerns that North Korea is assisting Russia with munition supplies in exchange for Russian weapons technologies that would aid North Korea's military and nuclear programme. Both deny the accusations, which — if true — would violate multiple UN Security Council sanctions.

Russia has previously provided Kim with cover to advance his nuclear programme- blocking US-led efforts to impose UN sanctions on North Korea's weapons tests.

According to a South Korea's Institute for National Security Strategy report, North Korea could potentially ramp up labour exports to Russia and engage in illicit activities to gain foreign currency, defying UN sanctions.

Putin's visit was criticised in the US, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken calling it an act of "desperation."

“North Korea is providing significant munitions to Russia ... and other weapons for use in Ukraine,” Blinken told reporters following a meeting with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.

According to his foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, Putin is accompanied on his visit by several top officials, including Deputy Prime Minister Denis Mantrurov, Defense Minister Andrei Belousov, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

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