Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un...is this beginning of a beautiful bromance?
Increasingly isolated from the leaders of major world powers, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government announced on Wednesday that it had entered into a “Year of Friendship” with nuclear-armed pariah state North Korea.
Russia and North Korea announced the arrangement through their respective government-owned media outlets. The Korean Central News Agency said the move “was caused by their joint bid to achieve a higher level in political, economic and cultural relations.”
Russia’s ambassador to North Korea, Alexander Matsegora, said that Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are in frequent contact. “An active political dialogue is maintained at the highest and high level,” Matsegora told Russian news agency TASS. “The leaders of the two countries regularly exchange messages.”
Matsegora said that Russia believes there is room for significant expansion of the economic relationship between the two countries. “Taking into account the considerable unused potential, we are not yet satisfied with the level of its development,” he said. “A lot has to be done in this direction in the future.” This would include financial cooperation, as well as trade and investment deals.
Russia’s economy is currently struggling under the dual burden of low oil prices and a regime of international financial sanctions applied last year after Russian troops invaded Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and then began supporting rebels in the eastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
North Korea doesn’t have much of an economy at all. As has been widely documented, one of its largest exports is its own people, who are hired out to work in third countries, with most of their wages paid not to them or to their families but to the North Korean state.
The Kim Jong-un regime frequently issues bellicose warnings to the U.S. and to South Korea. Last week, when the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea was attacked during a public appearance by a knife-wielding assailant and seriously injured, North Korea issued a statement officially applauding what it called a “knife attack of justice.”
Kim will make his first trip abroad as North Korea’s leader in May, visiting Moscow for a celebration of the end of World War II.
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