SEOUL: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a birthday greeting to Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, congratulating him for “crushing the challenges and threats of the United States”, the latest sign of deepening ties between the two countries.
As Russia’s isolation over its war in Ukraine has increased, it has seen increasing value in North Korea. For North Korea’s part, relations with Russia haven’t always been as warm as they were during the heady days of the Soviet Union, but now the country is reaping clear benefits from Moscow’s need for friends.
Here’s how North Korea-Russia relations began, and how they are becoming closer:
Communist North Korea was formed in the early days of the Cold War with the backing of the Soviet Union. North Korea later battled the South and its US and United Nations allies to a stalemate in the 1950-1953 Korean War with extensive aid from China and the Soviet Union.
North Korea was heavily reliant on Soviet aid for decades, and when the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s it helped spark a deadly famine in the North.
Pyongyang’s leaders have tended to use Beijing and Moscow to balance each other. Kim Jong Un initially had a relatively cold relationship with both countries, which both joined the United States in imposing strict sanctions on North Korea over its nuclear tests.
But after his country’s last nuclear test in 2017, Kim took steps to repair ties.
In 2019 Kim and Putin met for the first time in a summit in the Russian city of Vladivostok.
Since then, Russia has joined China in opposing new sanctions, vetoing a US-led push in May and publicly splitting the UN Security Council (UNSC) for the first time since it started punishing Pyongyang in 2006.