Russia in Talks With North Korea for Joint Military Drill: Defense Minister

Russia in Talks With North Korea for Joint Military Drill: Defense Minister
Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during an event marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, on July 28, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Monday that Russia is in talks with North Korea for possible joint military drills as the two nations seek to bolster their military cooperation and arms trade.

It comes after South Korea’s spy agency claimed that Mr. Shoigu had likely proposed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to hold a “three-way naval drill” involving China during his visit to Pyongyang in July.

During a media interview on Sept. 4, Mr. Shoigu did not confirm whether he had made such a proposal to Mr. Kim, but he said that Russia and North Korea are discussing possible joint military drills.

“Why not? These are our neighbors. There’s an old Russian saying: You don’t choose your neighbors, and it’s better to live with your neighbors in peace and harmony,” he was quoted as saying by Russian media outlet Interfax.

Mr. Shoigu visited North Korea on July 25 for the 70th anniversary of the end of the Korean War and held talks with Mr. Kim. Chinese Communist Party Politburo member Li Hongzhong also attended the event.

Just days after Mr. Shoigu returned from the visit, a Russian Air Force plane was spotted departing Moscow on July 31 and landing in Pyongyang, where it remained grounded for approximately 36 hours.

South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) director Kim Kyou-hyun said Mr. Shoigu may have proposed a trilateral naval drill involving China during his meeting with Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, according to lawmaker Yoo Sang-bum who attended a closed-door meeting with the NIS on Monday, Yonhap News Agency reported.

NTD Photo
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Chinese Communist Party politburo member Li Hongzhong and Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea, on July 27, 2023. (KCNA via Reuters)

It remains unclear whether North Korea accepted the offer. North Korea’s inclusion in Russia–China joint exercises could escalate tensions in East Asia, where Russia and China have been increasing their presence.

Russian ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, said he believes that “the need for some joint response steps [with North Korea and China] seems quite appropriate” given the “constant bilateral, and recently trilateral exercises” between the United States and its allies.

“I am not aware of any such plans yet,” Mr. Matsegora said in an interview with Russian state media outlet TASS on Sept. 2. “These are purely my personal opinions.”

Russia and China have been ramping up their drills in East China Sea and the Sea of Japan. In July, the two nations deployed over 10 warships and 30 warplanes for the “Northern/Interaction-2023” exercise.

The United States, South Korea, and Japan also conducted a trilateral ballistic missile defense exercise in the East China Sea on Aug. 29, aiming to enhance cooperation amid the “increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan.”

Russia–North Korea Cooperation Worries US

Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has been ongoing since February last year, has led to low ammunition supplies in both countries, and the United States is concerned that North Korea could provide Russia with weapons for use against Ukraine.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Aug. 30 that arms negotiations between Russia and North Korea are “actively advancing.”

NTD Photo
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington on June 26, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

“[North Korea] delivered infantry rockets and missiles into Russia for use by [the] Wagner [Group],” Mr. Kirby said during a press call. “Since then, Russia has been actively seeking to acquire additional munitions from [North Korea].”

Mr. Kirby said that despite Pyongyang’s insistence that it wouldn’t provide further aid to Moscow, new intelligence suggests that Moscow is seeking “significant quantities and multiple types of munitions” and “raw materials” for its military–industrial base, as well as “electronic components” for use in military systems.

The intelligence includes an exchange of correspondence between Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mr. Kirby noted.

Mr. Kirby said the United States expected that “high-level discussion may continue in coming months.” The United States will continue to collect intelligence and expose attempts by any party to support Russia’s attempted conquest of Ukraine.

“We’re going to keep watching it closely through a variety of means of intelligence,” he said.

“We will continue to identify, expose, and counter Russian attempts to acquire military equipment from [North Korea] or, frankly, any other state that is prepared to support its war in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, Iran has also provided Russia with thousands of suicide drones for use in Ukraine. In May, Iran signed a deal with Russia to provide drones and munitions in exchange for fighter jets, helicopters, and radar systems.

Mr. Kirby suggested that Moscow’s reliance on such “rogue” states demonstrated the continued failure of Russian leadership to achieve any of its core objectives in Ukraine.

“There is no other way to look at that than desperation and weakness,” Mr. Kirby said.

Andrew Thornebrooke and Reuters contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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