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A senior State Department official has warned that Russia’s embrace of North Korea could lead to Kim Jong Un’s willingness to test previously untested boundaries with South Korea.

According to Jung Pak, a senior State Department official overseeing North Korean policy, the strengthening ties between North Korea and Russia pose serious threats to global security. In the last year, North Korea has significantly contributed to Russia’s military operations by shipping around 11,000 containers of munitions and 40 ballistic missiles that have been used in Ukraine. This support has been crucial in bolstering Russian forces, which have faced numerous setbacks due to international sanctions and military challenges. 

Putin Kim Jong Un Gettyimages 1139190410 E1694534987276

Pak said, “This could lend this once-isolated country the luster of legitimacy that it does not deserve, and it should not have. We’re concerned about what that might do to make Kim think that his leash is longer than it really is, and how that might figure into Kim’s risk calculus.”

The benefits for North Korea from this alliance extend beyond military aid. In response to North Korea’s support, Russia has provided the country with a flow of food, raw materials, and manufacturing parts, directly supporting Kim Jong Un’s regime in maintaining internal stability and continuing its weapons program. The scale of these transactions indicates a significant boost to North Korea’s economic and military capabilities, raising alarms over increased regional threats.


Pak also pointed out the potential risks of North Korea’s weapons systems becoming more appealing to other nefarious actors worldwide. He said, “The luster of legitimacy could give other bad actors ideas about North Korea’s weapon systems. And North Korea has had a long history of proliferation in the Middle East, Africa, elsewhere. And we don’t want that to start blossoming into other proliferation relationships. So this is not just a Northeast Asia problem.”

These concerns come as Russia recently shieled North Korea during a United Nations vote that would have extended monitoring of North Korea’s nuclear activities. Russia was able to veto this measure because it is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. This resulted in the US vowing to come up with other measures outside of the UN framework to up the pressure on North Korea. 


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