SEOUL, Sept. 12 (Yonhap) -- Both facing growing isolation, North Korea and Russia are turning to one another for a mutually beneficial partnership, purportedly surrounding weapons, rivaling that of South Korea and the United States, which have advanced their security and economic ties.
In an anticipated summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week in Russia, the two countries are widely expected to reach a deal potentially involving military cooperation.
Specifically, observers and analysts predict North Korea to agree to supply Russia with ammunition and weaponry for its war in Ukraine. Moscow, in return, may agree on weapons-related technology transfer to Pyongyang, such as those involving spy satellites and nuclear-powered submarines.
North Korea could also seek food and energy assistance from Russia. The country has been suffering from a severe food crisis amid deepening economic hardships and disruptions of the state-controlled food supply system.
Speculations of a Pyongyang-Moscow military cooperation arrangement have surfaced since July, when Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu traveled to Pyongyang and was given a tour of an arms exhibition by the North Korean leader himself.
In Pyongyang then, Shoigu even observed a nighttime military parade showcasing the North's newest weaponry while seated next to Kim.
The Kim-Putin summit comes at a time when both countries are facing pressure from increased sanctions and deep isolation over their respective causes denounced by the international community.
Despite repeated condemnations from the international community and being subject to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions, Pyongyang has doubled down on its pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile weaponry.
The North has also engaged in an unprecedented level of military provocations, including test firings of intercontinental ballistic missiles, in recent years. Moscow is also under international sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Pyongyang and Moscow's moving closer to one another is also apparently in response to the tightened security and economic cooperation between South Korea and the U.S., as well as trilateral relations involving Japan.
South Korea has also been a vocal opponent of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Seoul having pledged to provide an additional US$2.3 billion in aid for Ukraine next year to help the nation restore peace and rebuild.
Many security experts also raise concerns that Pyongyang and Moscow may try to expand their cooperation to also involve China, creating a clear standoff against the evolving tripartite cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.
According to South Korea's spy agency, Russia proposed conducting three-way naval exercises with North Korea and China when Shoigu met Kim in Pyongyang in late July.
Greater North Korea-Russia cooperation may also signal the end of the efficacy of the UNSC sanctions regime against Pyongyang, as Moscow, along with China, is a veto-power wielding permanent member of the Security Council.
Seoul and Washington have issued strong warnings against seeking military cooperation with North Korea.
"Attempts at military cooperation with North Korea, which damage peace in the international community, should be stopped immediately," South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said last week in a summit with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta.
White House has also stressed that any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would directly violate the UNSC resolutions that prohibit any arms trade with North Korea.
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