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EDITORIAL | Russia-North Korea Unholy Alliance a Direct Threat to Japan

Russia and North Korea think nothing of violating international law. Japan cannot overestimate the dangers posed by these nuclear-armed despotic regimes' collusion.



Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un shake hands after signing the Russia-North Korea Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Treaty in Pyongyang on June 19. (©Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently visited North Korea, signing a "comprehensive strategic partnership agreement" with its supreme leader Kim Jong Un. Among other things, it calls for mutual military assistance in an emergency affecting either Russia or North Korea. 

These two dictators thereby established a new Moscow-Pyongyang alliance. In reality, Putin is continuing his invasion of Ukraine, and Kim is pursuing the strengthening of his nuclear and missile capabilities at a breakneck pace. 

This development is a cause for concern not only because of the adverse impact it is likely to have on the situation in Ukraine. These two countries would also negatively impact a potential crisis involving Taiwan or the Korean Peninsula. The risks to Japan will likely increase dramatically. 

Hopefully, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and the rest of the Japanese government will take these threats seriously. They should also ensure that awareness is reflected in our nation's northward-oriented defense posture. Furthermore, they must also clearly explain the seriousness of the situation to the Japanese people. 

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attend a state reception in Pyongyang, North Korea June 19, 2024. (©Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reuters)

Reassess Japan's Defense Needs

Both Russia and North Korea are nuclear-armed despotic regimes. They think nothing of brazenly violating international law. For neighboring Japan, the dangers posed by military collusion between these two rogue states cannot be overestimated. 

The new pact between Russia and North Korea is a genuine military alliance. According to the text of the treaty, should either party face a threat of armed invasion, the  two sides will consult at once on concrete measures designed to "remove the threat." 

It also states that in the event either country is put in a state of war by an armed invasion from an individual state or several states, the other side shall without delay provide military and other assistance with all means in its possession. This, it claims, is based on the right of collective self-defense provided for under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attend an official welcoming ceremony in Pyongyang. June 19, 2024 (©Sputnik/Gavriil Grigorov/Pool via Reuters)

Almost Identical to 1961 Treaty

The contents of this new agreement are almost identical to those of the 1961 Soviet-North Korean Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance. The alliance based on that treaty was dissolved when Russia established diplomatic relations with South Korea. Now it has been revived after 26 years. 

Putin himself has said that "military technology cooperation with North Korea has not been ruled out." Furthermore, Kim emphasized that the bilateral alliance had been elevated to a higher level. He views it as translating into cooperative development, including in the military sphere.

The pressure on Japan to further strengthen its own deterrent capabilities now grows.

Japan Needs Better Deterrence

Japan must now give heightened attention to North Korean missile attacks and other situations that develop 9on the Korean Peninsula. In the event of a North Korean missile attack or emergency on the Korean Peninsula, Self-Defense Force (SDF) personnel might need to deploy for Japan's defense. In such a case, we cannot rule out the threat of a Russian attack on Japan itself. 

Likewise, there is a risk that the Russian military would launch some kind of attack if China invades Taiwan. Or if North Korea chooses to launch diversionary provocations involving Japan, the US, South Korea or another country,

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi recently told a press conference, "We are deeply concerned about the impact that this (the Russia-North Korea treaty) will have on the security environment surrounding Japan." 

If the government is so concerned, it needs to take practical measures in response. True, the Kishida administration has it revised the three key security-related documents. It is also shifting to a more realistic approach of building defense capabilities mindful of the capabilities of other countries. 

However, it is doubtful that previous estimates for the defense capabilities will prove adequate with the appearance of this Russia-North Korea alliance. The Ministry of Defense and the National Security Council should flexibly review what actual defense capabilities are required 

Prime Minister Kishida holds a press conference on June 21. (©Sankei by Ataru Haruna)

Kishida Should Set Out Response

There is also concern that Russia's monstrous invasion of Ukraine will intensify.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken charged that Putin visited North Korea with the intent of continuing the Ukraine invasion. Blinken called it part of Putin's desperate efforts to strengthen ties with countries willing and able to supply the Russian military with the weapons it needs to pursue its aggression.

In fact, North Korea has already sent Russia millions of artillery shells, along with guided missiles and other war material. In return, Russia has reportedly provided Pyongyang with advanced technology in such areas as spy satellites and rockets. The establishment of the alliance between Russia and North Korea is likely to accelerate this bilateral arms and technology trade. 

Disruption to World Peace

The procurement and supply of arms and ammunition from North Korea is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. Indeed, Russia itself endorsed those resolutions. 

However, at his meeting with Putin, Kim announced North Korea's "full support and solidarity" for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. 

Russia has portrayed itself as a victim of attacks from Ukraine. If the new Russia-North Korea treaty is interpreted in line with such perverted logic, then North Korea could invoke "collective self-defense." In that case, it could increase its shipments of ammunition and missiles. It could even send North Korean troops to the front.

Both North Korea's military support for Russia and Russia's assistance to North Korea to strengthen its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities are disruptive of world peace and must be condemned. 

Prime Minister Kishida should use news conferences and other such opportunities to frankly discuss the perils posed by the Russia-North Korea alliance. Furthermore, he should explain Japan's potential responses to the Japanese public.


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun