September 14, 2023
SEOUL — Russian President Vladimir Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Wednesday to discuss bilateral military assistance, such as asking North Korea for artillery ammunition, according to observers.
The intensification of military cooperation between Moscow and Pyongyang could negatively affect the situations in Ukraine and on the Korean Peninsula.
Russia is seeking to increase its stockpile of ammunition and weapons, having heavily consumed them in the 18 months since it began its invasion of Ukraine.
The Washington Post reported analysis by a British think tank that the Russian military “is set to fire 7 million rounds of artillery ammunition this year.”
Its domestic production will remain at 2.5 million rounds per year, even with the increased production, it said.
Russian-made weapons are compatible with those of North Korea, which has used weapons from the former Soviet Union.
There is concern that if North Korea provides massive amounts of artillery ammunition to Russia, it could lead to a further prolongation of the invasion of Ukraine.
Change in relations
Putin made overtures to North Korea by sending Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to the country on July 27, the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, in the midst of his predicament with the invasion of Ukraine.
In the past, North Korea unilaterally sought political and economic support from Russia. This time, however, the situation is different.
“You see him [Putin] traveling across his own country, hat in hand, to beg Kim Jong Un for military assistance,” U.S. State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing on Monday.
Some observers believe that North Korea seeks the transfer of military spy satellites and other military technology in return for the provision of artillery ammunition, among other things.
Kim’s entourage includes Party Secretary Pak Thae Song, who was involved in the launch of military reconnaissance satellites that failed in May and August.
Ahead of the meeting, a researcher at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in South Korea anticipated that North Korea would ask for the use of the Russian version of global position system, GLONASS, for military purposes.
He said GLONASS could dramatically improve the accuracy of North Korea’s cruise missiles and would pose a threat not only to South Korea but to Japan as well.
Ahead of the meeting, a Russian state news agency reported an analysis by a pundit that the discussion might include the Putin administration’s acceptance of North Korean workers in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine in exchange for North Korea’s provision of ammunition.
In 2017, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution banning the acceptance of workers from North Korea as a sanction against the country’s continued nuclear and missile development.
Putin and Kim were expected to discuss this issue, given that North Korea wants to earn foreign currency and Russia has a serious shortage of manpower due to both mobilization for its military and people leaving the country.
If Russia conducts an arms deal with North Korea or accepts workers from the country, both of these actions would be in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that Russia itself voted for.
Even so, Russia is likely to proceed with cooperation with North Korea at all costs.