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Russia-North Korea Relations UPSC NOTE

 

Russia-North Korea Relations

  • U.S. national security council official noted that arms transfer negotiations between North Korea and Russia are “actively advancing”.

  • Under an array of western-led sanctions, Russia and its military contractor, the Wagner Group, have already allegedly turned to Pyongyang for artillery shells and what has been reported as “infantry rockets and missiles” in the past year.

  • While these sales and a flourishing business relationship with North Korea may have an important impact on the battlefields of Ukraine.

  • Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is likely to seek technology from Russia in exchange. 

  • This would be a huge boost to the DPRK’s weapons programmes and, at the same time, greatly to the detriment of the UN sanctions regime that seeks to limit those programmes.

  • North Korean arms exports have grown steadily along with its defence industrial base since the 1970s.

  • Many transfers were made to cold war ideological allies, but the country also increasingly sold weapons for hard currency and barter to soothe its economic woes. 

  • Iran was one of North Korea’s biggest customers in the 1980s during its war with Iraq.

  • Since 2006, the country has been under an increasingly complex regime of UN sanctions imposed to counter the DPRK’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programmes. 

  • Russia – a UN security council permanent member with veto power – actively endorsed the creation of the DPRK sanctions regime for more than a decade through its votes for sanctions resolutions. 

  • The most recent package of sanctions was passed in 2017.

  • But the country’s implementation of the sanctions regime – alongside fellow permanent security council member China – has been far from assertive. 

  • There is little evidence of Russian governments’ action against North Korea’s procurement networks in Russian territory.

  • Indeed, both countries have increasingly dragged their feet over further sanctions resolutions.

  • Clearly, Russia stands to benefit on the battlefield in Ukraine. 

  • But its purchases will undermine the North Korea sanctions regime and help to generate revenue for the Kim regime. 

  • It could also spur a broader renaissance for North Korea’s arms export enterprise.

  • North Korea desperately wants commodities such as food, oil, fertiliser and other goods. 

  • Russia has a vast military, nuclear and missile industrial complex, which could provide Pyongyang with much-needed technological fruits. 

  • North Korea has long relied on arms sales to fund its weapons development – including its nuclear and long-range missile programmes.

  • This has been termed “proliferation financing”.

  • Great efforts have been made by civil society to encourage governments and the private sector around the world to implement UN sanctions.

  • The irony of Russia’s new interest in North Korean weaponry is that – historically alongside China – Moscow was North Korea’s top arms supplier before the sanctions era. 

  • It also more broadly bankrolled the North Korean regime through aid before the collapse of communism and the end of the cold war.

  • If Moscow does move towards becoming a regular customer for embargoed North Korean arms, it will help Russia sustain his war on Ukraine. 

  • But the potential technological pay-off for Pyongyang could pose longer-term hazards for the world and must also be considered.

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Russia-North Korea Relations UPSC NOTE
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