Report to Congress on North Korea-Russia Relations

May 7, 2024 11:32 AM

The following is the May 6, 2024, Congressional Research Service report, North Korea-Russia Relations: Current Developments

From the report

Since 2023, North Korea (officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) and the Russian Federation (Russia) have upgraded their partnership, a development that could potentially boost Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and increase North Korea’s military capabilities and its willingness to engage in provocative actions against the United States and U.S. allies in East Asia.

The Biden Administration in recent months has designated for sanctions North Korean individuals and entities conducting illicit cyber and crypto activities, weapons procurement and transfers (to Russia), and fuel trade that violates U.S. and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) restrictions. North Korea’s contravention of these sanctions, with Russia’s assistance, challenges long-held U.S. policy, shaped and supported by several acts of Congress, aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a potential loosening of sanctions. Strengthened North Korea-Russia bilateral ties potentially embolden North Korea to expand illicit activities and engage in provocations, and may improve DPRK military capabilities. The Administration has worked with South Korea and Japan to increase deterrence and expand allied efforts to counter North Korea’s illicit efforts to evade sanctions, such as a new U.S.-South Korea task force to disrupt DPRK illicit imports of petroleum. Congress may consider whether to review Administration policies, examine implementation of unilateral and multilateral sanctions, and review the breadth and pace of North Korea-Russia cooperation as well as its impact on U.S. and allied forces.

An Expanding Partnership

In September 2023, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un traveled to Russia’s Far East, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and visited Russia’s newest spaceport, a factory producing advanced jets, and Russia’s Pacific Fleet in Vladivostok. It is Kim’s only summit since 2019. High-level Russian and DPRK officials continue to meet in each other’s capitals to develop the partnership in a broad range of areas, including economy, science, technology, and culture. In January 2024, the North Korean government said that Putin may soon travel to Pyongyang for a bilateral summit (the last time he traveled there was 2000). Some analysts have expressed concern that North Korea’s expanded capabilities and support from Russia (and China) could give North Korea greater confidence to conduct aggressive diplomatic, military, or other actions to achieve its objectives in the coming years.

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