The dangers of an agreement between Russia and North Korea

Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin

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North Korea wants something in return. In the 2000s, Russia signed the international sanctions regime imposed on North Korea for its illegal nuclear weapons program. However, the location of this week’s meeting – the Vostochny Cosmodrome spaceport – gave a not-so-subtle hint at what might come next. Kim may ask for access to Russian missile technology, which could improve the range, reliability and flexibility of North Korea‘s nuclear weapons delivery system. He might also be interested in the secrets of Russian satellites and submarines.

So while the immediate effect of any deal might simply be to make life more difficult for Ukrainian soldiers, it could also ultimately alter the nuclear balance in Asia. The North Korean regime is as erratic as it is malignant: It periodically threatens to incinerate South Korea and fired two short-range ballistic missiles just before the Kim-Putin summit. Other countries are concerned that their military capabilities are improving and could respond by increasing their own arsenals. A Kim dynasty capable of launching missiles at will from submarines would terrorize its neighbors.

Tips about Korea

To do? An unpredictable factor is China, which exerts some influence on both dictatorships. He has no problem with a long, bloody 20th-century-style war in Ukraine, which he hopes will divide Europe and America, but says he distrusts nuclear proliferation. An agreement between Russia and North Korea would test this claim. For the West, new sanctions on Russia or North Korea would have little effect. Instead, it should increase supplies of ammunition to Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia. He must also make public what he knows about the arms deals between Moscow and Pyongyang, and reaffirm that the US nuclear umbrella protects its allies in Asia.