Kim Jong-un's Arms Deals with Putin Must Be Stopped

      September 06, 2023 13:42

      North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is highly likely to visit Vladivostok next week to talk arms deals with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So far North Korea has been providing ammunition to Russia through Wagner Group, the private military outfit fighting in Ukraine, but now the two countries are discussing direct supply. That would constitute a violation of UN Security Council sanctions against the North which Russia, a permanent member of the UNSC, signed up to.
      The New York Times reported that Kim is likely to visit a naval base and space station in Vladivostok, which suggests the North could demand technology transfer of Russian nuclear-powered submarines and reconnaissance satellites. Since 2021, North Korea has focused on achieving five goals for strategic weapons development, but the project has not been progressing smoothly. The North has failed two consecutive reconnaissance satellite launches so far this year and lacks the technology to build a nuclear-powered submarine. Kim will surely try to secure those technologies when he meets Putin.
      North Korea could also ask for Russia's help in modernizing its outdated weapons. North Korea's main fighter jet is the Russian MiG-29 that was purchased in the 1980s. If Russia provides the North with cutting-edge fighter planes and air defense systems, South Korea's national security will be threatened. North Korea already has submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and if it gets its hands on nuclear-powered subs that can remained submerged indefinitely, Seoul's ability to monitor the North's nuclear weapons will be disabled. The deals Putin signs with Kim must be closely watched and met with an appropriate response if they involve nuclear-powered submarines and other prohibited technologies.
      If Putin tries to supply nuclear-powered submarines, reconnaissance satellites and cutting-edge fighter jets to North Korea, South Korea should consider supplying weapons directly to Ukraine. That could have a huge effect on the direction of the war in Ukraine. Until now, Seoul has only provided humanitarian aid to Ukraine due to concerns of damaging its ties with Russia. But stern measures are called for if Putin takes steps that could have a direct impact on South Korea's national security. Talks with the U.S. may also be needed to that South Korea can secure its own nuclear-powered submarines capable of monitoring North Korean subs around the clock.

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