Ostracised by the international community, North Korea and Russia have declared 2015 a year of bilateral friendship that will be marked by a series of political, economic and cultural exchanges.
North Korean state media said this year marks the 70th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule and the “victory in the great Patriotic War in Russia”.
Pyongyang’s announcement is the latest indication of the close relationship that is developing between two leaders and nations that have been the target of international.
Both Russia and North Korea have been the target of United Nations sanctions, with the UN attempting to halt Russian involvement in fighting in the Ukraine. The UN also imposed restrictions on North Korea after it conducted a third underground nuclear test in February 2013, as well as a series of subsequent missile launches.
North Korea’s record on human rights is also being discussed in the UN and it is possible that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, could be cited in a case referred to the International Criminal Court.
Perhaps conveniently, Moscow holds a veto in the UN Security Council that it could use to protect its new ally.
For Russia, the benefits are primarily economic. Moscow cancelled $10 billion (£6 million) of North Korea’s $11 billion debt last year and announced that the remaining $1 billion would be invested back into the country.
Russian investors have also agreed to plough $25 billion into the North’s creaking railway system, while additional funds will go into basic infrastructure. Private Russian firms are also to rebuild the North’s power grid, while the two countries are developing the ice-free port of Rason for exports of Russian coal.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader, has also invited Mr Kim to Moscow to attend a ceremony on May 9 marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Similar invitations have been extended to other world leaders, but it is likely that Mr Putin and Mr Kim will have the podium largely to themselves on the day.
The biggest cause for concern is the growing military alliance between Russia and North Korea, with the two regimes recently announcing plans to conduct a series of joint army, navy and air force exercises this year.
Mr Kim is also keen to get his hands on advanced military technology and his father, Kim Jong-il, tried to broker a deal to by Sukhoi Su-35 fighters in 2002. Given Moscow’s chillier ties with the West today, analysts say it is not inconceivable that the deal could finally go through.
The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il visited Russia in August 2011 in his armoured train for a rare meeting with then Russian president Dmitry Medvedev.
Russia is seeking to expand economic ties with North Korea and is eyeing a project worth about $25 billion (£16.4 billion) to overhaul the country’s railway network in return for access to mineral resources.
Source: The Telegraph