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N. Korea-Russia partnership may benefit both but will have limits: former intelligence officerBy Yonhap
Published : Sept. 8, 2023 - 09:46
North Korea and Russia may be seeking to improve their relations since it may offer benefits to both but the level of their cooperation, especially in advanced military technology such as nuclear weapons, will likely be limited, a former US intelligence officer on North Korea said Thursday.
Sydney Seiler, former national intelligence officer on North Korea at the National Intelligence Council, also argued that Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite being desperate for North Korea's support for his war on Ukraine, does not want to see a nuclear-armed North Korea.
"From Russia's point of view, I mean, Vladimir Putin is desperate. He is turning where he needs to turn," he said of a potential arms deal between Russia and North Korea.
Russia, however, "has adhered to the idea that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is still a goal. They are not accepting a nuclear North Korea, per se," he told a webinar hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank based in Washington.
His remarks come after White House officials hinted at a possible summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Putin in Russia to discuss a potential arms deal.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Pyongyang late July in what US officials have called an attempt to persuade North Korea to provide weapons to Russia for use in its ongoing war in Ukraine.
Many believe the North may be seeking advanced military technology, including nuclear and missile technology, from Moscow in return.
"The worst case scenario is that ... this relationship between Russia and North Korea goes to the next level where Russia actively seeks to improve the military capabilities" of North Korea, said Seiler.
Still, the former US intelligence official insisted that fresh cooperation between the two countries would likely be limited by what he called traditional limitations.
"When you look at the history of the relationship between Russia and North Korea ... there always were limitations to just how robust that relationship was -- what Moscow offered Pyongyang beyond the rhetorical, what Pyongyang sought out of Moscow, what was successful in getting, what wasn't successful," said Seiler.
"So the good news is ... a lot of those traditional limitations or parameters within which the relationship is likely to function will serve as limiting factors to just how strategically significant this might be," he added.
Seiler, however, noted that Russia's support for North Korea's conventional weapons may still escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula, citing North Korea's 1-million strong Korean People's Army.
"It's large. Quantity has a quality all of its own. But it does face a lot of shortfalls in terms of resources and a lack of modernization of systems across ground, air, naval domains," he said.
"And if they have a willing partner with Russia helping them to bring some of their conventional forces up to date, we can never forget that too would also increase the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear program because they would feel more confident in sustaining whatever our response might be," he added. (Yonhap)
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