Russia Strengthens Business, Military Ties With North Korea

The last couple of weeks has seen a series of moves to bring the two countries together.

Last week, Interfax news agency carried remarks by Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri S. Peskov, who confirmed that Kim Jong-un would visit Russia for the first time since taking power in 2011. The visit is to take place on May 9, and will coincide with 70th anniversary Nazi Germany’s surrenders.

“The North Korean leader’s participation has been confirmed, and we are getting ready for his arrival,”said Peskov.

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Kim Jong-un has held very few meetings with prominent leaders if Dennis Rodman can be stricken from that list.

Russia’s planned military exercises

Yesterday, numerous news outlets reported that Russia is also planning on conducting joint military exercises with North Korea.

“We are planning an expansion of the communication lines of our military central command,” Valery Gerasimov, the chief of staff of the Russian armed forces, said at a meeting attended by the leading generals of each armed forces branch, according to Newsweek. “We are entering preliminary negotiations with the armed forces of Brazil, Vietnam, Cuba and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

“We are going to conduct a series of joint naval and air force exercises, as well as joint drills of our ground troops and air assault troops,” added Gerasimov. Many believe this move is a part of growing isolation felt by Russia since the annexation of the Crimea.

$1 billion trade goal

In addition to the planned visit and military exercises, Moscow is setting up a Business Council for Cooperation with North Korea. Both countries have stated that they would to pass a goal of $1 billion in trade between them by 2020 and believe the council will help. The aim of the new council is to play matchmaker for Russian companies interested in doing business in North Korea. The two countries have also signaled their intentions for this trade to go forward in rubles.

“This is undoubtedly a new stage of business cooperation between Russia and North Korea, which will significantly strengthen trade and economic relations between the two countries,” Russian Commerce and Industry Chamber Vice President Vladimir Strashko said, according to reporting by TASS.

The last year has seen a true warming in relations between the countries including legislation that Putin signed in May 2014 that forgives 90 percent of North Korea’s Soviet-era debt.