They say we must remember history lest we are bound to repeat it.

In a move reminiscent of 1939’s “Pact of Steel” between Germany and Italy, Russia and North Korea signed a mutual defense pact during Russian President Vladimir Putin’s state visit to Pyongyang on June 19, 2024. This agreement, termed the Treaty on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, deepens military ties between the two nations and includes a commitment to mutual military support in the event of an attack on either country.

Key Elements of the Pact

The pact revives a formal military alliance similar to the one established under the 1961 Soviet-DPRK treaty. It pledges immediate military assistance if either nation is attacked, signaling a significant shift in the balance of power in the region. The agreement encompasses various areas of cooperation, including defense development, science, medicine, and trade.

One notable aspect of this agreement is the deployment of North Korean engineers to join Russian forces, which could happen as soon as next month. This indicates North Korea’s more active involvement in supporting Russia’s military endeavors, potentially including the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. North Korea has already been aiding Russia by supplying weapons and munitions, including ballistic missiles used against Ukrainian forces.

International Reactions

The signing of this pact has drawn strong reactions from the international community. South Korea‘s national security adviser, Chang Ho-jin, described the agreement as crossing a “red line” and warned it could severely damage ROK-Russia relations. He emphasized that Russia must reconsider its actions if it wishes to restore and develop ties with South Korea after the Ukraine war .

The United States, South Korea, and Japan have condemned the pact in the strongest terms, expressing concerns about regional and global security implications. Pentagon spokesperson Pat Ryder highlighted the risks for North Korean forces if they are deployed to Ukraine, labeling them potential “cannon fodder” in an “illegal war.”