Russian, North Korean Leaders Exchange Letters on Bolstering Ties, Pyongyang Claims

Russian, North Korean Leaders Exchange Letters on Bolstering Ties, Pyongyang Claims
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Far Eastern Federal University campus on Russky Island in Vladivostok on April 25, 2019. (Alexey Nikolsky/ AFP via Getty Images)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Aug. 15 reportedly wrote to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un urging stronger bilateral relations between their countries, according to Pyongyang’s official state media.

In a letter to Kim honoring the Korean Peninsula’s freedom from Japanese colonial rule, Putin reportedly said that Russia and North Korea should “expand the comprehensive and constructive bilateral relations with common efforts.”

Russian officials haven’t confirmed the authenticity of the reports.

North Korean state-run Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) claims that in the letter, Putin conveyed to Kim that their closer relations would “contribute to strengthening the security and stability of the Korean peninsula and the Northeast Asian region.”

In his reply, Kim said the friendship between North Korea and Russia forged in World War II has continued to develop, according to a separate report by KCNA.

Kim said that strategic and tactical cooperation between the two nations had reached a new level, with common efforts to frustrate military threats and provocation posed by “hostile forces.” He also expressed confidence that their cooperative relations would “grow stronger in all fields” following an agreement he signed with Putin in 2019, KCNA stated.

While the report didn’t identify which hostile forces Kim was referring to, North Korea has accused the United States and its allies of imposing “hostile policies” against Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea.

Pyongyang has refused to resume denuclearization talks with the United States—which stalled in 2019—even as Washington has reiterated that it holds “no hostile intent” toward Pyongyang and is willing to have discussions without preconditions.

Russia, China Block UN Sanctions

Since 2006, North Korea has been subject to U.N. sanctions, which the U.N. Security Council has steadily increased over the years in a bid to cut off funding for Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs.
China and Russia, however, have urged for an easing of U.N. sanctions to improve North Korea’s humanitarian situation. They also vetoed a vote pushed by the United States to strengthen sanctions on North Korea in May.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said she was disappointed by the vetoes from Russia and China, which hadn’t blocked any of the prior nine sanction votes since 2006.

“I am beyond disappointed that the Council has not been able to unify in opposition to the DPRK’s unlawful [weapons of mass destruction] and ballistic missile programs. And that failure rests on China and Russia alone,” Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement after the vote.

North Korea has conducted a series of missile launches in 2022, including one involving its largest intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-17, all of which are banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions on Pyongyang’s missile program.

Katabella Roberts and Reuters contributed to this report.