Russia, North Korea Sign Strategic Partnership Treaty, 6 ROK P-8A Poseidons Arrive in South Korea

June 20, 2024 1:37 PM
Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un during a Ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea on June 20, 2024. KCNA Photo

Russia and North Korea on Wednesday signed a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty that included both countries pledging to assist each other if attacked, a move condemned by South Korea, which said it is now reconsidering its policy of providing Ukraine with only nonlethal equipment.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, three Republic of Korea Navy’s (ROKN) six P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) returned home to South Korea after completion of training in the United States, with the remaining three returning by the end of this month.

The Treaty on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was signed in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang on Wednesday by Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un following a summit meeting between the two leaders.

State media Korean Central News Agency released the full text of the treaty, which included both countries pledging military assistance to the other side if that side is invaded. “This comprehensive agreement between the two countries, the DPRK and the Russian Federation, is nothing less than a document of a very constructive, future-oriented, exclusively peace-loving and defensive nature, designed to protect and defend the basic interests of the two nations,” stated North Korean leader Kim in a transcript of a press conference following the treaty signing.

“The Treaty on Comprehensive Partnership signed today contemplates, among other things, mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties thereto,” stated Putin in the transcript.

The Russian president also called for U.N. sanctions on North Korea to be revised, along with adding that both Russia and North Korea held the same views as to which party was responsible for the escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula. “They include the U.S. confrontational policy of expanding its military infrastructure in the sub-region, which is accompanied by a substantial increase in the scope and intensity of various military exercises involving the Republic of Korea and Japan, which have a hostile nature towards the DPRK,” said Putin. He added that Russia rejected any attempt to hold North Korea responsible for the deteriorating situation and that North Korea is entitled to take reasonable measures to strengthen its defense capacity, provide for national security and protect its sovereignty.

Putin also pointed to the U.S. and other NATO countries providing Ukraine with arms and equipment to conduct strikes on Russian territory. “This is a grave violation of the restrictions to which the Western countries committed under various international obligations” said the Russian president who stated that as such, Russia did not rule out developing military and technical cooperation with North Korea under the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Treaty. The U.S, Ukraine and South Korea have already leveled accusations at Pyongyang of providing ballistic missiles and artillery shells to Russia for its war with Ukraine.

According to South Korean media outlet Yonhap News, National Security Advisor Chang Ho-jin in a press briefing on Thursday expressed the South Korean government’s grave concern and condemned the signing of the comprehensive strategic partnership agreement between North Korea and Russia. He also stated the government was reconsidering the issue of arms support to Ukraine. Seoul’s current policy restricts support to Ukraine to only providing non-lethal items and equipment.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the first three of the ROKN six P-8A MPAs returned home to Pohang Naval Air Station, South Korea after completing initial training in the United States. South Korea signed for six P-8As in 2018 under a foreign military sales agreement with the U.S. government and deliveries began in early 2023, with ROKN aircrew and maintainers carrying out training in the U.S.

“The P-8A will enable the ROK Navy to conduct enhanced maritime air operations, including improved airborne anti-submarine warfare capabilities against North Korean submarines, as well as rapid response capabilities in the event of future maritime operations and expanded surveillance capabilities in our waters. In addition, the ROK Navy will operate the same type of maritime patrol aircraft as the U.S. Navy, enabling seamless joint maritime air operations in terms of interoperability,” read an ROKN release, which also stated that the remaining three aircraft will arrive home on June 30 and a formal induction-into-service ceremony will be carried out on July 4. The ROKN P-8s will undergo a year of operational capability evaluation through full-scale training and reach full operational capability in mid-2025, according to the release.

In other developments, Japan’s Joint Staff Office on Thursday issued a release on the movements of Russian warships around Japan. Thursday’s release stated that on Saturday at 1 a.m., Russian Navy corvettes RFS Gromkiy (335) and RFS Rezkiy (343) were sighted sailing east in an area 25 miles northwest of Rebun Island, which lies 31 miles off the northwest tip of the main island Hokkaido. From Sunday to Tuesday, the two corvettes cruised around La Perouse Strait, which divides Hokkaido from Russia’s Sakhalin Island, before heading east into the Sea of Okhotsk. The JSO release then stated that on Sunday at 11 a.m., corvettes RFS R-20 (924) and RFS R-24 (946) were sighted sailing west in an area 25 east of Cape Soya on the main island of Hokkaido and subsequently the two corvettes cruised around La Perouse Strait from Sunday to Wednesday before heading west into the Sea of Japan. The JSO release stated that Japan Maritime Self Defense Force fast-attack craft JS Wakataka (PG-825) and P-3C Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 2 based at Hachinohe Air Base on the main island of Honshu shadowed the Russian ships.

The Russian corvettes all belong to the Russian Navy Pacific Fleet, which is conducting drills that began on Tuesday in the waters of the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk and will conclude on June 28.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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