The Korea Herald


Seoul cautions Moscow on Putin's NK visit

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : June 17, 2024 - 15:43

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin visits Senezh Management Workshop before a meeting with participants of the Russia's President Vladimir Putin visits Senezh Management Workshop before a meeting with participants of the "Time of Heroes" project established for Russian service members, who were involved in the country's military campaign in Ukraine and study to take up leadership positions in the state administration system, in the Moscow region's city of Solnechnogorsk, Russia on Friday. (Reuters-Yonhap)

Seoul has warned Moscow against "going beyond a certain point," amid reports that Russia and North Korea are seeking to deepen their military ties during President Vladimir Putin's imminent visit to Pyongyang.

National Security Adviser Chang Ho-jin told Yonhap News TV on Sunday evening that Seoul has "cautioned his Russian counterpart that Russia should not go beyond a certain point."

"Our intelligence suggests that there is room for (Russia and North Korea) to adopt schemes similar to what they've had in the past in terms of their military and security (cooperation)," he added.

Seoul also observes chances for Putin and Kim to discuss ways to upgrade their ties by enhancing their military cooperation and allowing Russia to embrace more North Korean migrant workers. The conservative Yoon administration has claimed Russia and North Korea have had a wide range of exchanges, including North Korean weapons used by Russian forces invading Ukraine.

Chang, who was formerly South Korea's ambassador to Russia, also said in the interview that Putin's visit, which is only the second in Russia's history, signals the Putin administration is struggling and is in a rush. Putin in 2000 visited Pyongyang to meet Kim's father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, for the first time as Russia's leader, just ahead of a Group of Eight meeting in Okinawa, Japan.

"The more Russia offers and concedes to the North Korean regime (in bilateral talks), the more Ukraine and the West will be satisfied," he said.

He added that Russia "should take into consideration which among North Korea and South Korea will be more important to it, once Russia ends its war with Ukraine."

Chang also said the high-level security dialogue between Seoul and Beijing, which Seoul later announced would take place here on Tuesday, "is proof that the current situation is not based on the shared (interest) of North Korea, China and Russia," given that the dialogue is held at a time when Putin's Pyongyang visit is being rumored.

According to local reports, another senior official from the presidential office said on condition of anonymity that it does not rule out the possibility of the military intervention clause being revived in the forthcoming Putin-Kim talks, as in the 1961 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance between the Soviet Union and North Korea.

The presidential office in Seoul was not immediately available for comment as of press time.

The treaty between Kremlin and Pyongyang -- which instated the clause for Russia's military intervention on the Korean Peninsula automatically -- was scrapped in 1996 as Russia established trade ties with South Korea, five years after it was founded in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Kremlin and Pyongyang signed a new set of treaties in 2000 for economic, science and technology cooperation. The military intervention clause was not included.