Putin and Kim sign mutual defense pact. The two dictators and the limousine through the streets of Pyongyang


By John

A pact of mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the two countries e the common commitment to fight “neocolonialist practices” of the West, starting with sanctions. The visit of Vladimir Putin in Pyongyang, concluded with an invitation to the «dear comrade Kim Jong Un» to go to Moscow, brings back memories of the world divided in two by the Cold War. With the 38th parallel once again becoming one of the frontiers of the challenge between Moscow, committed to supporting North Korea, and Washington, the South’s ally. Kim reiterated his support for Moscow in the conflict in Ukraine, which reacted by accusing Pyongyang of provide military aid to Russia to carry out “mass murders” of civilians.

The presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak he therefore asked the international community for “a more rigorous approach to achieve true isolation” of North Korea and Russia. The choreography of Putin’s visit seemed designed to emphasize a return to the past, with guards on horseback, children with balloons, giant portraits of the two leaders and the crowd gathered on Kim Il Sung Square greeting Putin’s first visit to Pyongyang since 2000 Although Kim went so far as to state that the level of “prosperity” of the current bilateral relations had not been touched even at the time of the “Korean-Soviet relations of the last century”.

In his grandfather’s time Kim Il Sung, precisely. Putin and Kim spoke for 11 hours, including a bilateral meeting with their respective delegations, two hours face to face with just the interpreters and then a walk, tea ceremony and dinner. Enough to confirm all the fears of Westerners, who accuse Pyongyang of supplying Moscow with ballistic missiles and ammunition for use in Ukraine and suspect Russia of providing North Korea with aid to develop its missile and nuclear programs. The two countries are careful not to confirm these intentions. But Kim did not miss an opportunity to reiterate his support for Moscow in the conflict in Ukraine, receiving Putin’s public thanks. And the latter said that Russia “does not rule out military-technical cooperation” with North Korea. To then hope for a review by the UN Security Council (of which Moscow is a permanent member) of the sanctions in force against Pyongyang. In general, the Russian president added, the two countries oppose “politically motivated” sanctions that “only undermine the global economic and political system”.

But the highlight of the day, at the end of which Putin left for Vietnam, was the fsigning of the strategic cooperation treaty, which among other things commits each of the two parties to intervene in defense of the other, replacing a 1961 pact between North Korea and the Soviet Union. The Russian leader commented on the agreement by linking it to the statements of the United States and other NATO countries on the possibility for Ukraine to strike Russian territory with precision weapons and in the near future with F16 jets supplied by the West. “A flagrant violation of all restrictions to which Western countries have committed themselves as part of various international obligations,” Putin said. For his part, Kim said that the pact only serves to maintain “peace and stability in the region”. But, in enthusiastic tones, he underlined that it demonstrates how Russia is North Korea’s “most honest friend and ally” and Putin himself is “the closest friend of the Korean people”. With all due respect to China, thus far the main political and military supporter of North Korea, with which it has a defense treaty.

The welcome with great pomp and… limousine

Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, smiling and having fun, they act as each other’s chauffeurs driving an Aurus limousine, the presidential car made in Russia which has just been given as a gift for the second time by the head of the Kremlin to the Marshal of North Korea. This is not a set by the Hollywood majors but an episode filmed by Moscow TV in the park of the Kumsusan Palace, immediately after the signing of the two leaders at the bottom of the agreement on the creation of the new axis for military cooperation, including the mutual defense commitment in case of attack. In short, the birth of “an alliance”, according to Kim. The episode is just one of many reported in the 24 hours of Putin’s visit, including excesses and unprecedented scenarios. Starting from the impatient and nervous walk of the young general, filmed during the exhausting wait on the big red carpet set up at Pyongyang airport for the arrival of his illustrious guest, serial latecomer. In the middle of the night, finally the meeting, the handshake and the hug, before the journey together to Pyongyang.

This morning the proof of the welcome with great pomp: Putin’s long presidential procession cut through the streets of the city between two wings of crowd up to Kim Il-sung Square. The Tsar got out of his Aurus Senat, a retro style inspired by the Soviet-era ZIL limousine, and Kim was waiting for him, under large portraits of the two leaders. It was not a simple welcoming ceremony with homage to the guard of honor, but a grand military parade that surprised the head of the Kremlin himself. All in an atmosphere of enthusiasm that recalled a comment read on Mandarin social networks on the occasion of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s 2019 visit to Pyongyang: “There was the ideal climate to strengthen anyone’s self-esteem.” Once the parade ended amidst chants and waving of plastic flowers, the two leaders left Kim Il-Sung square on the Aurus, emerging from the roof to return the greetings of the crowd, mobilized in large numbers by the efficient organizational machine of the North. They headed to Kumsusan Palace for negotiations and talks that lasted about an hour and a half: in the agreement signing room, the grand master of ceremonies was Kim Yo-jong, the leader’s powerful younger sister, demonstrating his growing power in the hermit country. He smiled (few) and showed his brother where to sign, helping him get up and rearrange his chair. Then the unprecedented scenario of the supreme commander making comments in front of an audience that is not strictly domestic.

The chapter on gifts is interesting: the Russians chose a tea set and an admiral’s rapier for Kim, almost in response to the finely chiselled sword from North Korean gunsmiths received by Putin at the summit of the two leaders in September 2023. The supreme leader reciprocated with portraits and busts of Putin created by the refined painters and sculptors of the hermit country, very attentive to the care of the arts. In conclusion, Putin thanked Kim for North Korea’s support for his war in Ukraine, part of a broader “fight against the hegemonic imperialist policies of the United States and its satellites against the Russian Federation.” The Kremlin is “the most honest and trusted ally”, replied Kim, thanking the tsar – the first world leader to visit the North in five years – described as “the dearest friend of the Korean people”. Judgments reported by the Russian media that will not have been appreciated in Beijing.